They agreed that they had disagreements, and they found more areas where there could be no meeting point. Yet, it was not the usual blood letting after members of Team Anna and those of the government emerged after their meeting on the draft Lokpal Bill today. There was no effort to score points before the camera. That is a positive development given the past acrimony between the two groups.
What was missing in the whole brouhaha over the Lokpal Bill so far was maturity and civility, the basic requirement for healthy negotiations. It’s rather unfortunate that it has come so late in the day — they have met eight times already and tomorrow’s meet will probably be the last one. Both sides agreed that the three-hour long meeting was held in a “very cordial atmosphere”.
However, there were differing perceptions on both sides on the success of the meet. Senior minister Kapil Sibal told reporters that 80 to 85% of issues were resolved. Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan, members of Team Anna, were more sceptical on the number but said there was consensus on majority of the issues. The highlight of the event was the absence of bitterness from both sides.
“On a range of issues, there is a broad agreement. It is a major step forward. Both sides feel we should move towards a consensus to formulate a draft where difficult issues of divergence are spelt out when it goes to political parties sometime in July,” Sibal said, adding there was a frank exchange.
The latest bone of contention is the committee to appoint the Lokpal. While the civil society members want a broad-based appointing committee, the government suggests politicians in the committee. “There is a difference of opinion on selection and removal of the Lokpal. The government wants to control the selection and fairness of the Lokpal,” said Kejriwal.
“Government’s bill also suggests that only the government can make complaints against the Lokpal in the Supreme Court,” Bhushan claimed.
Meanwhile, there has been no headway on the disagreement over the prime minister and the higher judiciary coming under the Lokpal;merging the Central Bureau of Investigation, Central Vigilance Commission with the office of the ombudsman among other things.
The drafting committee will meet on Tuesday again during which both the sides will exchange their drafts and discuss them. Both versions would be sent to the Cabinet after that. Other political parties would come into the picture in July, the minister said.
Both the groups must be commended for keeping the meet purposeful. It is necessary that the discussion over Lokpal gets broad-based. All major political parties as well as the judiciary should be part of the larger debate. More civil society groups should pitch in with ideas to make the Lokpal Bill stronger. The process has started taking the correct turn; it should not run into the media hype trap again. The country can wait a bit but it should finally have an effective anti-corruption machinery in place.