Team Anna to appear before Parliament panel today

Aug 10, 2011

Just when they seem to be hurtling towards confrontation, Congress has successfully reached out to the Anna Hazare camp, persuading the civil society activists to appear before the standing committee on law and justice.

Activist Arvind Kejriwal confirmed that he along with his colleagues have accepted the invite from the parliamentary panel led by Congress's Abhishek Singhvi and will attend the deliberations on Wednesday. Gandhian Anna Hazare, former law minister Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan and Kejriwal are expected to attend the meeting for "preliminary discussions".

"'We were invited by the Rajya Sabha secretariat to attend the meeting. The official suggested that this would be a preliminary discussion", Kejriwal said.

The decision to engage the civil society activists when they are in the campaign mode against the government is seen as reflecting Congress's desire to blunt their campaign. In fact, the Singhvi-led panel appears to have worked with unusual speed, considering that the Lokpal Bill was referred to the committee only on Monday. An engagement also serves the purpose of defusing the perception that government is stubborn and spoiling for a fight, said sources.

Also, the Singhvi-led panel is also racing ahead with the scrutiny of the judicial accountability bill. It has begun clause-by-clause examination of the "judicial Lokpal" bill, and has plans to send the legislation back to Parliament in the next couple of weeks.

The panel's active work could be spurred by the aggressiveness shown by Team Anna in the last one week. Hazare has been on an offensive since the government-approved Lokpal bill has been tabled in the Lok Sabha. The group has burnt copies of the bill and organized several rallies, marches and candle-light protests to drum up support in the run-up to their indefinite fast beginning August 16.

Meanwhile, a member of Parliament has provided a possible opportunity for discussion on the Lokpal bill in Parliament. Independent MP Rajeev Chandrashekar on Tuesday submitted the 'Jan Lokpal Bill' in the Rajya Sabha.

The bill seeks to establish an independent authority to investigate offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The Lokpal will be authorized to "detect corruption by expeditious investigation and to prosecute offenders and to ensure timely redressal of certain types of public grievances and to provide protection to whistleblowers".'

The private members' bill could be discussed in the House and provide a forum to legislators to air their views on some of the controversial sections of the anti-corruption legislation. Talks between the Hazare-led group and the government had broken down after the two failed to eye-to-eye over key issues like the powers of the Lokpal, selection process and other contentious issues.