Anna Hazare will end his 12-old- day fast at 10 am tomorrow after Parliament today endorsed in principle three of his key demands to deal with corruption in a compromise between government and the Gandhian.
Both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha went out of their way to discuss in a special sitting on Saturday an issue thrown up by the campaign of the 74-year-old activist who has been demanding enactment of Jan Lokpal for which he started a fast from August 16.
There was confusion at the end of the day-long debate in both the Houses as Parliament was expected to vote a resolution but Mr Pranab Mukherjee, in his concluding reply to the debate in the house, read out the 'Sense of the House' which said:
This House agrees in principle on the following issues for a strong and effective lokpal:
lower bureaucracy to be under lok pal through an appropriate mechanism
establishment of lokayukts in the states
And further resolves to forward the proceedings of the house to the related Standing Committee for its perusal while finalizing its report
These elements of the 'Sense of the House' were the issues raised by Hazare, who wanted them to be incorporated in the Lokpal Bill.
Immediately after he read it in both Houses, there was thumping of desks and Parliament was adjourned for the day.
"Parliament has spoken....The will of Parliament is the will of people," said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh commenting on the development.
In his communication to Hazare, Manmohan Singh said that Parliament has passed a resolution on the three issues raised by him and appealed to him to call off his fast.
Reacting to Parliament's action after Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh handed over Singh's letter, Hazare announced to the cheering crowds in Ramlila Maidan: "I wish to break my fast tomorrow at 10 am".
"This victory of Jan Lokpal bill is a partial victory. A full victory is yet to be achieved," he said while noting that Parliamentarians have respected his three demands.
"I congratulate them and express my gratitude to all MPs," he said as celebrations broke out at the protest venue with crowds setting off fire crackers and dancing to the beating of drums and tunes of Lokpal anthem.
After the hardline positions on both the sides which led to the arrest and release of Hazare on August 16, both showed accommodation and give-and-take.
Hazare won the initial battle by securing permission for a fortnight-long protest fast in a bigger venue and set demands like passage of Jan Lokpal Bill bringing the PM, the higher judiciary and conduct of MPs in the House.
The government, which had refused to consider the demands of the civil society, finally yielded and entered into negotiations that resulted in today's parliamentary action.
After the Standing Committee recommendations, the official Lokpal Bill may be taken up for consideration in the winter session of Parliament.
Deshmukh was accompanied by Congress General Secretary Vilas Muttemwar and East Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit.
After Parliament expressing its 'sense', the Prime Minister said, "Parliament has spoken. The will of Parliament is will of the people."
The rare action of Parliament came after major political formations Congress and BJP got together in a bid to end the stalemate arising out of Hazare's campaign against corruption.
In the debate in both the Houses, the main Opposition backed government's stand seeking its help on discussing the three key demands of Hazare.
There was unanimity that Constitution was supreme and Parliamentary procedures supremacy in law making cannot be questioned.
Though Hazare's commitment on anti-corruption was appreciated, a number of speakers attacked the statements made by his campaign managers on political parties, politicians and sometimes Parliament itself.
Pranab Mukherjee, Finance Minister and government's chief negotiator, said he was happy that the impasse has been resolved which was created by fasting of Anna Hazare.
Winding up the day-long debate, Mukherjee said while a "respected" Gandhian with "massive support" was on agitation, it was not always necessary to move in "conventional straight jacket way".
After the 'Sense of the House', Mukherjee said "I do feel that on the basis of that, we can request Shri Anna Hazare to end his fast so that the so-called conflict between civil society, Parliament or political parties" ends.
He asserted that Parliament was supreme and law-making was its domain alone while others could give suggestions.
During the debate, the ruling and Opposition parties, which were keen on ending the two-week old logjam, felt Hazare's demands could be considered but the sanctity of the Constitution and Parliamentary supremacy had to be preserved.
Setting tone for the debate, Mukherjee said the country was at "cross-roads" and asked lawmakers to give their serious and considered views on the "important" and "genuine" issues raised by Hazare.
"For, everything that we do must be consistent with the principles enshrined within our Constitutional framework," he said.
Mukherjee said the situation was "moving out of hand" and "crisis" had been created as he asked lawmakers to "seize the moment and demonstrate the commitment" in dealing with corruption which is "gnawing at the vitals of our polity".
BJP gave "consent" to all the three issues under consideration of the two Houses.
In the Lok Sabha, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said, "History has given us an opportunity, which we should not miss. Let us not get into technicalities. We should give this country an effective, strong, free and impartial Lokpal."
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said BJP finds considerable merit in Hazare's three demands, including covering entire bureaucracy and Citizens' Charter for public grievances under Lokpal and setting up Lokayuktas in states.
Maintaining that there should be no conflict with the Constitution and it was the responsibility of MPs to abide by the Constitution, the Finance Minister asserted in Parliament that legislation is the domain of the Parliament alone.
"Sorry, we cannot go beyond a certain point. Legislation is the domain of legislators. Nobody other than Parliament can make a law. Others can give suggestions. Executive powers is also limited in making laws...Parliament alone can make law," he said.
He questioned demands for withdrawal of the government's Lokpal Bill, currently with the Standing Committee. "You have every right to criticise. What is the argument and justification for this demand for withdrawal of this bill?"
Referring to the government's engagement Hazare team, he said, "We tried to convince them. I admit we have failed. We could not carry conviction with them. Neither I have intention to score a debating point, nor I have intention to contradict anyone."
Mukherjee said, "If we want to get back the confidence of people, we shall have to ensure that premier institutions should function as per norms and rules. If we do, many issues will be corrected automatically."
Hailing the Constitution which has been described as the biggest 'Magna Carta', he said, "It is our responsibility to abide by the Constitution so that there is no conflict with the desire of our masters, so that there is no conflict. Our constitution is flexible enough to accommodate various ideas, it can accommodate various thoughts."
FILED ON: AUG 27, 2011 20:43 IST , EDITED ON: AUG 27, 2011 22:28 IST