NEW DELHI: Hopes of a resolution to the Anna-government standoff flickered from time to time on Thursday but eventually it remained unclear when the Gandhian would call off his 10-day fast. The eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation was continuing till midnight.

The Prime Minister first raised hopes by offering to bring the Jan Lokpal Bill, as drafted by Team Anna, for discussion in Parliament. But this was rebuffed by Anna Hazare who insisted on an assurance that the three sticking points of the bill - inclusion of lower bureaucracy in Lokpal, setting up Lokayuktas in all states, and bringing a citizens' charter for public services - be incorporated in the new bill after a debate.

The government found this assurance almost impossible to give as that would mean presuming Parliament's will. Late at night, it was learned that the government was preparing a written response to Anna's demand. At the time of writing, Team Anna sources said nothing had been received by it from the government.

They also said that Anna's aides had met the BJP leadership late at night, and removed some of the party's misgivings about the Jan Lokpal Bill. The BJP has decided to support the Jan Lokpal Bill after Anna's aides agreed that some provisions of the bill can be changed to address their misgivings. However, it is in agreement to bring the lower bureaucracy under Lokpal and enact a central law to set up Lokayuktas in states. This support from the BJP is likely to narrow the Congress's elbow room in dealing with Anna.

The offer to debate the Jan Lokpal Bill in Parliament was made in the morning by the PM in a speech marked for its conciliatory tone and, and was seen as a major concession to Team Anna which had said its bill must be debated by the entire House and not just the Standing Committee.

As part of his outreach, the PM also appealed to Hazare to call off his fast. The entire House endorsed the sentiment, with Speaker Meira Kumar rising to send out a strong request to Anna to give up his fast.

However, expectations that the offer to discuss Team Anna's bill along with two other versions of the proposed law - one prepared by Aruna Roy's NCPRI and the other by Jaiprakash Narayan's Loksatta - under a motion that will refer all three proposals to the standing committee would ease tensions, collapsed.

An unrelenting Team Anna sought guarantees that Parliament would pass resolutions committing itself to embrace the Anna group's positions on the three contentious issues. The tough position adopted by Team Anna that it cannot trust the government as it was previously "hoodwinked" by the Centre has again put the government in a bind.

Giving the guarantees sought by Team Anna would be tantamount to virtually enacting the Jan Lokpal Bill as the Lokpal Act with the exception of its provision for the inclusion of higher judiciary in Lokpal's jurisdiction. It would also violate the cross-party consensus that Parliament alone was empowered to make laws.

The Congress leadership was racking its brains to come up with a resolution that would satisfy the fasting Hazare without compromising Parliament's privilege to be the sole law-maker. By all indications, it was going to be a difficult task. The Hazare group was going ahead with its plan to mobilize more numbers on Saturday as part of its 'Chalo Dilli' plan.

The Congress has already begun exploring the feasibility of raising a team of negotiators that would include representatives of the BJP, the Left and other parties. The party thinks this can ease the pressure on the Congress. However, it was not clear whether the opposition was ready to perform the rescue act, given the high cost of appearing to be at odds with the anti-corruption upsurge.

Hopes of a resolution rose sharply in the morning when the Congress opened a Maratha channel with Hazare by deploying former Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to talk the Gandhian out of his fast. Hazare responded to the overture. But the expectation of de-escalation dimmed by evening despite Manmohan Singh's offer and appeal to Anna to end his fast.

The appeal saw Anna writing to the PM asking for concrete assurances that the issues that are being negotiated between his colleagues and the government would be addressed. Anna's associate Arvind Kejriwal urged supporters to go to the PM's residence and demand that he step out to meet them to explain why the Jan Lokpal bill was not being passed by Parliament.

Anna's continued vigour-doctors said on Thursday that his parameters were stable-allows his supporters to press their protest further. Although it also gives the government some leeway as it need not act under the apprehension that Anna's health is precarious, it is handicapped by the resolve of the Hazare group.


The credit for turning the fight against corruption into a national movement goes to Anna Hazare. The government would never have made the concessions it has made had it not been for Anna. Has the war been won? Far from it. But we believe Prime Minister Manmohan Singh walked an extra mile in Parliament on Thursday. Does Anna have reason to be sceptical? Yes. But he should also believe in second chances. Why not give Parliament time to consider the various Lokpal drafts - including Team Anna's and Aruna Roy's? One of the beauties of India is its democracy, imperfect as it may be. And one of the cornerstones of our democracy is the parliamentary process. It would be dangerous to try and short-circuit that process, or to hold it to ransom. We believe Anna should acknowledge the PM's gesture and call off his fast. Of course, he can resume his protest later if government's response is inadequate.


9.30am | Congress parliamentary party meets. Pranab Mukherjee tells party that parliamentary procedures can't be bypassed

10.30am | Young MPs, including Jitin Prasada, Sachin Pilot, Sandeep Dikshit, Milind Deora meet Pranab Mukherjee

12noon | PM speaks in LS, says he salutes Anna. Assures different versions of the Lokpal Bill will be discussed in Parliament

1pm | Manish Tewari 'regrets' Anna remarks

2pm | PM meets Vilasrao Deshmukh

3pm | Deshmukh meets Anna

3.30pm | Team Anna core group meets. Anna later says he will break fast if Jan Lokpal Bill is discussed in Parliament. Won't leave Ramlila Maidan till legislation takes a firm shape

5.30pm | PM meets senior ministers. Pranab meets Chidambaram, Sibal and Khurshid

8.30pm | Pranab meets Khurshid, Sachin Pilot, Jitin Prasada, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sandeep Dikshit, Pawan Kumar Bansal.