NEW DELHI: Blow hot, blow cold. In fact, the breeze that wafted from government turned so icy on Wednesday that it threatened to virtually deep-freeze the talks between it and Team Anna. Assurances held out on Tuesday were withdrawn and concern for Anna's health was dismissed, said Team Anna members, while government leaders told them that the parliamentary process wouldn't be shortened to rush through the Lokpal Bill.

Hopes of a resolution to the standoff dipped sharply as there was no movement on the sticking points. An all-party meeting appears to have emboldened the government as the meeting merely appealed to Anna Hazare to call off his fast while clarifying that they were against rushing through an amended Lokpal Bill. On its part, the government agreed to replace the current bill with a new legislation, incorporating some features of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

Meanwhile, police presence has been sharply increased at the Ramlila Maidan, raising fears of the 74-year-old fasting Anna of being forcibly removed from the grounds. Kejriwal expressed the fears while appealing to the people to maintain peace. Government sources, too, admitted that that some "intervention" might become inevitable.

Late at night at 11.30pm, Anna addressed the vast crowd repeatedly urging it to ensure peace. He said if the government wanted to pick him up, he would readily submit to the authorities. Any violence, he said, would defeat their movement. He told his followers to embark on a "jail bharo" agitation if he was arrested and peacefully picket government leaders and MPs.

Speaking at an iftaar hosted by the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh told journalists, "We are caught in a bind, and we have to get out of it." Government sources asserted that Jan Lokpal Bill can't be the sole reference point for an anti-graft law. They also rejected Team Anna's demand that the Lokpal bill be passed within the next four days after extending the current session of Parliament, bypassing scrutiny by the Standing Committee.

Emerging after a meeting with Pranab Mukherjee aqnd Salman Khurshid, civil society representatives said, "We are back to where we were, and we will have to start from scratch." Prashant Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi said that the government representatives also brushed aside any concern for Anna's health while saying that was the headache of the civil society activists.

The government has clarified that while Parliament was ready to consider the Jan Lokpal Bill, it would also consider other versions of the anti-graft bill like the one prepared by Aruna Roy's MCPRI. All these versions, said sources, would be vetted by the Standing Committee which would hammer out a "strong Lokpal Bill." In all this there was an obvious tacit admission: the bill earlier brought in Parliament by the government was virtually a lemon.

Government's tough posture on Thursday came against the backdrop of hardening of mood in the face of Hazare's pressure tactics. The decision not to give in was taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs held after Team Anna's talks with Pranab Mukherjee and Khurshid. Sources said at the meeting home minister P Chidambaram strongly argued for a hardline in the government's dealings with Team Anna.

Responding to Anna group's demand that the bill be passed in four days after extending the Monsoon session beyond September 8, Manmohan Singh said on Thursday, "This is their suggestion. This does not mean we have to accept everything." Although he underlined "there is scope for give-and-take", the comment reflected a new firmness.


Team Anna says all bureaucracy should come under Lokpal, not just higher bureaucracy, because day-to-day pain felt by citizens is often from lower bureaucracy. Govt says it is impossible to cover 40 lakh employees without creating a mammoth structure, which is undesirable

Team Anna says this would define time frame for tasks of public offices (say, a ration card should be given in 3 days, or passport in 15 days) and it must be spelt out in Lokpal Bill. Failure to meet deadline should lead to fines. Govt says this should be included in separate Grievances Redressal Bill, and there should be no fines

Team Anna says all states must have this state-level anti-corruption mechanism. Right now only 18 states have it, and of them, many are defunct. Govt says these are matters for the state govts to decide and Centre has no say. Team Anna disagrees

Team Anna wants its version of the bill to be considered and adopted by Parliament. Govt says Parliament is supreme and it can consider all versions, including the MCPRI version as well as Jan Lokpal Bill. NCPRI Bill visualizes different ombudsmen for judiciary, lower bureaucracy, govt leaders and higher bureaucracy, and grievance redressal

Team Anna wants an amended draft bill should be debated by entire Parliament, and not sent to Standing Committee. It wants definite time frame for passing bill. Govt says bill will go to Standing Committee as process can't be short-circuited. However, it says some time frame can be given