Faced with the challenge of getting a strong anti-graft Lokpal Bill passed in the winter session of Parliament by a two-thirds majority, which is required to give it a constitutional status, the government has reached out to opposition parties for help.
With the month-long winter session scheduled to begin on November 22, the government has turned to its ace trouble shooter, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, to bail it out of the tricky situation.
With time running out, Mukherjee’s first hurdle is to persuade the parliamentary panel examining the Lokpal Bill to give its report soon, and the second and bigger hurdle is to ensure the two-thirds number required in both Houses of Parliament.
The government, which had snubbed Team Anna’s demand to amend the Constitution to accept some of its demands, saying the joint drafting committee did not have the mandate to make such a recommendation, has now made a U-turn.
The government changed its stance to accommodate the demand for providing the Lokpal a constitutional status, similar to the Election Commission — a demand first raised by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. For this to become a reality, the government will need the support of main opposition parties. It enjoys a simple majority in Lok Sabha, but is short of that in Rajya Sabha.
Mukherjee has begun consultations with opposition members in the parliamentary panel examining the Lokpal Bill, and has sought their cooperation in getting the report finalised soon.
Although leaders of UPA-friendly parties such as Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan appear inclined to help the government, others are non-committal.
“It is the government’s desperation to show that it is not delaying the bill. The parliamentary standing committee is not at fault and can’t be pushed to give its report in a hurry,” said a panel member.
This, however, is only the first and a relatively smaller hurdle for the government since the committee's chairman, Abhi-shek Singhvi, is confident of completing the work soon. But he said, “It is unfair to suggest timelines and deadlines.”
HT has learnt that the committee will place its report in Parliament by the month-end.