Building the ground to make lokpal a reality in the budget session, the government is willing to remove provisions for creating lokayuktas in states from the lokpal bill to make the proposed law palatable to its key ally, the Trinamool Congress, and the BJP-led Opposition.Top government sources said the offer would be placed on the table when negotiators meet the Trinamool at an "appropriate time" ahead of the session. The Congress ally had said the provision was an attack on India’s federal structure, a point repeated by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday.
“It would (now) be a lokpal-only bill as we had originally envisaged,” the government source said. The government had expanded the scope of the law to the states to address Team Anna’s demand, which was also reflected in the three-point sense of the House passed by Parliament in August last year.
As the Trinamool, state governments and the BJP stood up to oppose the lokayukta provision, Team Anna put this demand aside and went ahead to hammer the government for bringing in what it called “a weak law”.
The government had made lokayuktas optional for the states before the Lok Sabha passed the lokpal and lokayuktas bill. But the Trinamool refused to back the bill in Rajya Sabha unless the government knocked out the entire chapter on lokayuktas from the bill.
Government leaders expect the informal decision to accept the Trinamool demand to pave the way for passage of the bill in the Rajya Sabha in March-April. The bill, however, will need to go back to the Lok Sabha for its vetting before it comes into force.
Existing lokayuktas who were set up under state laws welcomed the government rethink. “The bill passed by Lok Sabha would have restricted our mandate to only handling complaints about offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act,” a lokayukta in a north Indian state said.