Hope Lokpal Bill will be passed this session: Anna Hazare

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New Delhi:  Hours after political parties again failed to reach a clear consensus on the contours of the Lokpal Bill, a relaxed Anna Hazare headed into day 2 of his core team's meeting saying he still hoped to see the bill passed in this session of Parliament, but if the need arose, would launch his next hunger strike for a strong anti-graft law.

"If the climate is good in Delhi, I'll fast here, or else in Mumbai," Anna said on Wednesday morning. Pass a good Bill, he said, adding that the all-party meeting was but a limited gathering and not the place that the Bill would be passed; the Parliament with many more MPs would pass the Bill, he said.

He also suggested that the government should consider extending the Winter Session of Parliament, if it was running out of time. "You have extended sessions before, you can do it now," Anna said. The 74-year-old activist has set the government a deadline: If the Lokpal Bill is not made law in this session, or if a Bill that does not meet his approval is brought, he will begin another fast on December 27 and his associates will campaign against the Congress in five election-bound states.

The government today asked activist Anna Hazare not to dictate the terms for when the new anti-corruption Lokpal Bill should be passed as a law. Minister of state in the PMO V Narayanswamy said, "Parliament will decide the time frame for introducing the Lokpal Bill. We will look at legal limits. Anna should not make an issue of this." At the all-party meeting at the PM's residence last night, there was no clear consensus on whether the Lokpal should use the CBI to investigate cases of corruption and how much control it should have over the country's premier investigating agency

The government has also sought time to study the report of a parliamentary standing committee on the Lokpal Bill, and some parties suggested at the meeting that a Bill of such import should not be rushed through. With only six working days left of the Winter Session of Parliament doubts are being raised whether the government will indeed be able to bring the bill in this session.

Anna's core team is meeting over two days since yesterday to plan their campaigns. On Tuesday, the team announced that it had sought permission to stage the protest at Mumbai's Azad Maidan rather than Delhi's Ramlila Maidan since the Capital was turning bitterly cold.

Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal said they would gather at the final venue on December 27; celebrate if the anti-graft law saw light of day before then; protest if it did not.

The Mumbai police says it has received a letter from Team Anna requesting permission for a sit-in protest at Azad Maidan from December 27 to January 26.

Another key associate of Anna, Kiran Bedi later tweeted, "Maharashtra is Anna's karma bhoomi. Anna got several laws enacted by his fasts there. Lokpal awaits Anna now. Is it Mumbai's destiny?" Urging the corporate world in Mumbai to join the fast, she said in another tweet, "Corporate world in Mumbai now has an option of joining the movement. Support Anna, get the law and help shoot up Sensex. Yes We Can."

The need for an ombudsman agency - the Lokpal - to combat corruption among government servants has been the focus of Anna's India Against Corruption campaign this year.  The PM called an all-party meeting last evening to discuss the final details of the Lokpal Bill.  Though consensus has been reached among political parties on most features, how much control the Lokpal should have over the CBI remains a point of dispute.

Team Anna member Kiran Bedi said almost all the parties were unanimous on CBI getting autonomy.

"The key issue is the autonomy of CBI. You have the SP, BSP, Left, BJP asking for autonomy. I think the Congress view now needs to be known," said Ms Bedi.

When pointed out that some leaders have cautioned government against rushing through the Bill, Bedi said, "Who are these parties? Not the BJP surely as Sushma Swaraj tweeted that they want it in this session. Are they managed voices, isolated voices?".

She said the day people start trusting CBI, governance will come in. "The parties are asking for autonomy and admitting that CBI has been abused, this is why we need Lokpal. CBI is a graveyard of corruption, it is waiting to be exhumed. That's why there is a desperate effort to keep it protected as long as possible."


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