Lokpal Bill row: Rajya Sabha votes in favour of resolution

Lokpal Bill row: Rajya Sabha votes in favour of resolution
New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha has voted in favour of a resolution accepting the three demands of Anna Hazare that have been sticking points in the government and Team Anna coming to an agreement on a draft Lokpal Bill. If The Lok Sabha votes in favour too, history will be made.

The government moved the resolution on the Lokpal Bill in both Houses of Parliament at the end of a day-long debate that has seen historic unanimity. At Ramlila Maidan, Anna Hazare's aides have said he will end his fast once Parliament has voted.

Saturday saw fast-paced developments: Since morning, compromise seemed so tantalizingly near that everyone said - Anna would end his fast this evening. At 3.30 pm, as the debate on the Lokpal Bill in Parliament continued, Team Anna delivered a googly - saying they would only agree to a resolution and vote on the three must-have demands of Anna Hazare. The government, after quick consultations with the Opposition, agreed and put the resolution to vote.

The PM's emissary senior minister Vilasrao Deshmukh carried a copy of the resolution to Anna Hazare.

Earlier in the afternoon, Team Anna had said that they wanted not a statement giving a unanimous sense of the House that the government had offered, but a resolution and a vote. The BJP then said it was agreeable to this if it made Anna give up his fast. The party has said on the floor of Parliament that it supports his demands. The PM met senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.

At the Ramlila Maidan, Anna Hazare, who has been in a meeting with his team, is getting frailer by the moment. He has not eaten for 12 days, doctors said today his blood pressure was low and his heart beat high. Ace specialist DR Naresh Trehan is examining him right now. There have been widespread appeals to the 74-year-old to call of his hungerstrike - from Bollywood star Aamir Khan to spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to MP after MP who rose to speak in the Parliament debate.

Both the government and the BJP yesterday had agreed that there would be no vote. Given that Anna's aides, including Prashant Bhushan and Medha Patkar, have been in regular touch with both Congress leaders and the BJP, the deal-breaker seems to have been semantics and a vote.

"We have been told there will not be any resolution or any voting, this is not going to be very meaningful or helpful. The whole objective of today's Parliament debate was that there will be a resolution and voting which would have also made clear the stand of MPs and their parties. If no resolution will take place or no voting will happen and if this is the response given to Anna Hazare's letter then it is "very unfortunate", Mr Bhushan said a short while back.

"It is a clear case of betrayal. In the last four days, the government has changed its stand thrice," added Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal.

The government, shaking its head about what it calls another "shifting of goal posts" says it offered last night exactly what it was set to deliver - a statement read out by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on the unanimity of the House on the three must-have demands of Anna Hazare which would then be sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

Senior ministers Pranab Mukherjee, Salman Khurshid and Kapil Sibal then went into another huddle and Mr Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met BJP leaders. The BJP then said it was ready for resolution and vote on all three points. BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said, "The government should not try to confuse the picture...The BJP has suggested a way out of constitutional technicalities."

The earlier compromise arrived at - one that the BJP had signed off on - was that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee would initiate a debate in Parliament. The discussion would focus largely on Anna's version of the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill. A resolution would be drafted and would accept in principle the three demands that Anna has listed as a pre-condition to ending his fast. This draft for the resolution - intended to convey the unanimous opinion of the House - was also reviewed by the BJP's Arun Jaitley. The plan was that the House would collectively issue this resolution or written statement and it would then be sent to the Standing Committee for review and recommendations, which is standard procedure.

The Lokpal refers to an ombudsman committee that will be empowered to investigate complaints of corruption from the public against government servants. "Anna's trio of essentials include bringing all central government employees, including junior bureaucrats, under the purview of the Lokpal. He also wants the Lokpal model to be replicated in states. Finally, he wants a citizen's charter to be displayed in all government departments. This notice will list the duties of that department and provide for punishment for under-performance.

The government had indicated that the resolution could refer to some caveats on the point about junior bureaucrats. These would be ironed out with inputs from all parties via the Standing Committee.
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