Government’s fresh bid to end Lokpal logjam fails (Roundup)

March 23rd, 2012 - 8:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, March 23 (IANS) An all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here Friday to end the stalemate on the anti-graft Lokpal bill ended inconclusively amid growing clamour for changes in the government’s version of the legislation already passed by the Lok Sabha.

Opposition members stuck to their objections to many controversial clauses in the proposed legislation that could not be passed by the Rajya Sabha on the last day of the winter session Dec 29 last year.

Party leaders who attended the meeting offered stiff resistance to the provisions related to creation of state Lokayuktas saying it would infringe on the rights of the states to have their own anti-corruption watchdog.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley told reporters that the only consensus to emerge in the meeting among non-Congress parties was against the government’s bill and they agreed that formation of state ombudsman should be left to the states only.

“Our request is that there has been a lot of consultation already, they should redo the government legislation and bring it in the budget session itself,” Jaitley said after the meeting that was also attended by union ministers Pranab Mukherjee, P. Chidambaram, A.K. Antony and Salman Khurshid.

He demanded that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) should be made independent, the procedure of appointment and removal of the Lokpal should be free of the government control and NGOs and other public funded organisations should be excluded from the proposed anti-graft watchdog.

However, if the bill is redrafted and passed in the Rajya Sabha, it will have to go back to the Lok Sabha to get a fresh nod from there.

According to sources, government allies including Trinamool Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and DMK, and Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party which extend outside support to government, maintained their earlier stands and wanted the formation of Lokayukta to be left to the states.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury said political parties will try to build consensus on the contentious issues during the recess of parliament’s budget session from March 30 to April 24.

There are some “issues on which a proper agreement in terms of the actual drafting have to be arrived at. Many of us have given our amendments on these aspects”, Yechury said.

The government and opposition, he said, should “arrive at some sort of understanding on these matters and in the second half of the session the attempt must be to enact the Lokpal”.

Amid glaring uncertainty, the government expressed confidence that the differences on the Lokpal bill have been narrowed down and efforts were on to reach a consensus.

“The prime minister has heard the views of various political parties. The issues have been narrowed down to four to five points,” Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) V. Narayanasamy said here.

Lok Janshakti Party leader Ramvilas Paswan told IANS after the meeting that his party is opposing the bill because it is “being hurried through under Anna’s (Hazare) pressure”.

Social activist Anna Hazare whose team has been rallying for creation of an all-powerful ombudsman threatened a bigger anti-corruption stir if his version of the bill, the Jan Lokpal, was not passed.

“The all-party meeting was convened but no consensus could be reached. If the government does not bring the Jan Lokpal bill by the 2014 election, we will have to organize a big movement,” said the anti-graft activist here.

The Lokpal bill could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha during the winter session last year after the opposition moved a number of amendments and the government insisted that it needed time to study them.

The opposition has charged the government with shying away from a vote after the session was called off midnight Dec 29 before the debate was concluded.

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