Two days after Parliament agreed to consider Anna Hazare’s key demands in a new Lokpal Bill, the Congress appears to be thinking along a different line.
The party is seriously considering Rahul Gandhi’s call for the proposed anti-corruption body to be a constitutional entity, accountable to Parliament like the Election Commission.
A Union minister on Monday informally sounded out NDA’s acting chairman and BJP leader LK Advani on Gandhi’s proposal which was outlined in his speech in Lok Sabha on Friday.
A surprised Advani told the minister that the government will be making a serious mistake if it seeks to “superimpose” Gandhi’s proposal now. It will only delay enactment of the Lokpal Bill and a constitutional amendment for such a Lokpal would elude a consensus.
“Such amendment needs more two-thirds’ support of MPs, which is unlikely,” he said.
Advani told HT that he told the minister “it will appear that the government is not serious about the Lokpal Bill and intends to derail it through delaying tactics. People will think that you (the government) are deliberately bringing in Rahul Gandhi’s idea in order resile from your commitment given to Parliament and Anna.”
He did not name the minister but confirmed that he had broached the subject on his own.
The Congress move comes when a standing committee of Parliament is supposed to consider Hazare’s demands on the basis of the resolution in the two Houses, along with views expressed by the MPs in last Saturday’s debate.
Gandhi’s proposal has not found mention in Parliament’s resolution, on the basis of which PM Manmohan Singh wrote to Hazare to enable him to call of the 12-day fast.
Advani told the minister that he did not think a constitutional status for Lokpal was absolutely necessary.
“If the government is serious, it can first free bodies like the EC and other investigative bodies from its control by involving the opposition in selection of its members.”
But the Congress is backing Gandhi’s proposal, dismissing charges that it will delay the Bill.
“The Congress supports Rahul Gandhi’s idea. It will not take much time nor involve any technicalities,” said general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi.
According to him, only a one-line proposal of including the Lokpal in the list of institutions with constitutional status needs to be added in the proposed Bill if Parliament agrees.
“It is for the collective wisdom of the standing committee and the Parliament to accept it,” said Dwivedi.
His colleague Abhishek Singhvi, who heads the standing committee which is vetting the bill, said investing the ombudsman with constitutional status will be the “ultimate destination” but that should not prevent it from being a statutory body for the time being.
He stressed that the Congress was keen to bring a strong Lokpal legislation and Gandhi has articulated the resolve for a “more elevated” body by proposing a constitutional status for it, which is “our ultimate endeavour”.