NEW DELHI: Hopes of a solution to the 11-day standoff between government and Team Anna were delicately balanced as Parliament was finally set to discuss the setting up of a Lokpal on Saturday. Central to the discussion would be what the House decides on the three key demands of Anna Hazare. If they are accommodated, Anna is expected to give up his fast. (At the time of going to press around midnight, law minister Salman Khurshid was meeting with Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit, Bhaiyyuji Maharaj, Prashant Bhushan and Medha Patkar at his residence.)

While the numbers are with the parties in the UPA, Team Anna has got a big leg up by securing backing from the BJP and Left for their demand that Parliament commit itself by a resolution to accommodate their demands in the final draft of the Lokpal legislation. The Congress hasn't said it was opposed to these demands, but it hasn't endorsed them yet.

The three contentious demands are including the lower bureaucracy within the Lokpal's ambit, a central law to set up Lokpal-type Lokayuktas in states and a citizens' charter detailing the responsibilities of government departments and the penalty for their non-fulfilment.

The Hazare group maintained that the veteran campaigner, who has been on fast for more than 250 hours now, won't call off his protest unless he gets parliamentary commitment on his three demands. The Congress, as it mulls its response over the demands, was anxious about not only Anna's failing health, but also the risk of appearing to be the sole hurdle in the way of the Gandhian's populist anti-corruption agitation.

The Congress has to spell out its stance by Saturday evening when the debate in both Houses on Lokpal is to conclude. The debate did not happen on Friday as scheduled because the BJP objectedto the government's move to suddenly seek a discussion in the afternoon. The two sides also sparred over which rule the debate should be held under, with the government suggesting rule 193, which doesn't entail voting, and the BJP insisting on rule 184 under which a debate ends with a vote.

The dispute was sorted out by the evening when the parties agreed that discussion be held on the statement of the finance minister Pranab Mukherjee who also happens to be the Leader of the Lok Sabha.

But the two sides are likely to clash again on the Anna group's demand that there be a resolution binding Parliament to support their stand on the three contentious issues.

On Friday, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi strongly argued against dilution of parliamentary sovereignty. But with a sense of urgency rising in the face of Anna's determination not to compromise on his demands, the Congress may come around to settle for a resolution so formulated that it meets Team Anna's condition without committing Parliament to embrace specific provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

Many in the party felt that this was possible: parliamentarians are usually adept at working out resolutions that accommodate diverse concerns, sometimes even mutually antagonistic ones. As a matter of fact, neither BJP nor the Left has extended unqualified support to the Jan Lokpal Bill.

For instance, like the Congress, they don't agree with the argument of the Hazare team that the Centre can frame a law to set up Lokayuktas since the matter falls in the domain of state governments. They, however, feel that Parliament can get around constitutional restraint by enacting a model law which can serve as a non-binding advisory for state governments.

Similarly, even as they back Team Anna's stand on including the lower bureaucracy, both BJP and Left are opposed to its stand that Article 311, which protects government employees against arbitrary dismissal, should be removed.

Opinion is growing in the Congress that government can take a fresh look at its blanket opposition to Team Anna's stand on the three sticking points. "This is doable," said a Cabinet minister, pointing out that Congress-ruled states were already moving towards setting down a citizens' charter. A senior ally also said that model law for Lokayuktas can be the way out of a confrontation over the demand for a Lokpal-type anti-corruption watchdog in the states. He pointed out that a citizens' charter has been under consideration of the department of personnel and training for close to two years now.

In fact, with Rahul Gandhi indicating that the Congress was ready to compete with its political rivals as well as civil society on devising strong anti-corruption measures, a section in the party feels that the party should accept a resolution which balances the need to defuse tension with its anxiety to not be seen as being dictated to by a bunch of civil society activists.


BJP wants a vote in Parliament on the inclusion of lower bureaucracy, state Lokayuktas and citizens' charter under Lokpal, as demanded by Anna Hazare. Congress wants a discussion, not a vote. There's hope that on Saturday, Parliament will come together and adopt a resolution that sincerely seeks to address Anna's three remaining concerns. If a consensus is not possible, then let there be a vote. We wrote yesterday that Parliament is one of the cornerstones of our democracy, and it would be dangerous to try and bypass it. Voting, for or against, is integral to the parliamentary process. It also lets the electorate know where their representatives/ parties stand.


10am | Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and law minister Salman Khurshid meet

11am | House begins; Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan meets Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat

12noon | Rahul Gandhi speaks on Lokpal; disruption in Lok Sabha

12:30pm | Outside Parliament, Rahul tells TV his is a 'game changing idea'

12.30pm | Anna sends letter to PM, urges discussion in Parliament on his 3 demands

12.50pm | Young Congress MPs, Sachin Pilot, Jitin Prasada, RPN Singh and Pradeep Jain fan out to give TV bites on Rahul's speech

2:15pm | Govt move for debate objected to by BJP and others. House adjourned

4:30pm | All-party meeting with Speaker about Saturday's discussion on Lokpal in Parliament

5pm | Gopinath Munde and Anant Kumar meet Anna, booed at Ramlila Ground

10.30pm | Medha Patkar, Bhushan in talks with Sandeep Dikshit & Khurshid at the minister's house.