Govt reaches out to opposition on Lokpal Bill
IANS NEW DELHI WILLING to bring the Lokpal bill in the present session of parliament, senior ministers on Thursday met Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley as part of efforts to build a consensus on the bill. Three ministers including Law Minister Salman Khurshid, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy met Jaitley on Thursday to discuss the bill, highly placed sources said.
According to the sources, the ministers informed the Bharatiya Janata Party leader about dropping formation of Lokayuktas for the states from the Lokpal bill. Sources, however, added that the appointment procedure for the Lokpal and issue of the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) independence may still remain issues of contention between the opposition and government.
Bansal, talking to IANS, confirmed the meeting and added that more meetings will be held. Asked if the bill will be brought in Rajya Sabha next week, he said: “Hopefully.” Khurshid, meanwhile, told reporters that the bill will be brought only after a consensus is built. “We would like the bill to come to the Rajya Sabha only after there is a consensus. If the Bill is brought and then consensus is sought in the house, it would lead to certain problems,” he told reporters outside the parliament house.
The government had come in a tight spot when the Lokpal bill was passed with difficulties in Lok Sabha during the winter session, but a constitutional amendment bill giving it statutory status was defeated. The bill was then brought to the Rajya Sabha on the last day of the extended winter session, but could not be passed and the house was adjourned sine-die. Key ally Trinamool Congress has been opposing the bill over the provision for formation of state Lokayuktas, calling it an attack on federal structure.
The party on Thursday said it will vote in favour of the bill if the provision for Lokayuktas is dropped.
“If the Lokpal Bill is presented without Lokayuktas (clause), we will support that.
This has been our demand.
The states should have the powers to appoint the Lokayuktas. This has been our demand,” said Trinamool leader and Minister of State for Tourism Sultan Ahmed.
The changed Lokpal bill, as the government wants to bring, will have to be sent back to Lok Sabha once the Rajya Sabha passes it.
Sources, however, say the procedure is lengthy, and it may be difficult to complete it in the current session.
“Government still has to talk to several other parties. After that they will debate the bill in the upper house. Once it is passed there it has to be returned to the Lok Sabha, but if Lok Sabha has some problems with the amendment, the procedure will get much prolonged,” a parliament member said. “let’s see if it can be passed in this session,” he added.The ongoing budget session will end on May 22.
Incidentally, BJP is adamant on two issues, namely, the process of appointment and removal of the Lokpal should be made more democratic and the CBI should be kept out of government control.
Sources said government is coming around to the view that the State Lokayukta would kept out of the Lokpal Bill and a model law be passed by Parliament to enable states to create their own Lokayukta.
These Union Ministers are also likely to meet CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury on Friday and leaders from other parties to discuss their views.
Other than the issues of appointment and removal of the ombudsman and keeping CBI out of government control, the Left wants foreignfunded NGOs to be brought under the Lokpal.
On Anna Hazare’s demand for appointing Lokayukta in states, Khurshid said Hazare’s supporters in Delhi are accusing the government of trying to keep it out of Lokpal Bill.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had held an all-party meeting on March 23 to resolve the issues regarding the Bill. Though the meeting failed to evolve a consensus, it was decided that parties will continue negotiations on the Bill.
The Bill could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha in the Winter Session last year. The House was adjourned sine die amid high drama with the opposition accusing the government of running away from a vote because it was in a minority.
The Bill, which was earlier passed in the Lok Sabha in the same session, was brought in the Upper House on the last day of the Winter session and key UPA constituent Trinamool Congress refused to bail out the government there. Even in the allparty meeting this year, opposition parties and key allies like Trinamool Congress and DMK had opposed the provision for setting up Lokayuktas in states along with Lokpal and wanted that states be given the freedom to decide on it.