Lack of consensus at Wednesday's all-party meeting on the lokpal bill has complicated matters for the Congress which is already under severe attack from the opposition and the civil society on the issue of corruption.
The Congress-led UPA government is in a fix on the issue. If the amended bill is not brought in Parliament in the winter session, the Congress will find it extremely difficult to dispel the perception that it is going slow in the fight against graft at a time when Anna Hazare and his team have brought the corruption on the national agenda.The other dilemma before the government managers is the contours of the bill. A senior minister said the government was seriously considering bringing the prime minister under the lokpal's ambit with certain safeguards and also evolving an appropriate mechanism to include lower bureaucracy (group C employees) in its purview despite reservations by some political parties at the all-party meeting.
However, the inclusion of CBI remains the bone of contention. As the opposition is firm on its demand for freeing the CBI of government control, it remains to be seen to what extent the Congress is willing to accommodate these demands.
Surprisingly, the government and even the opposition did not broach the constitutional status for Lokpal, as proposed by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi during the monsoon session, at the all- party meeting.
As the move would require two-thirds support in Parliament, the government is aware that it does not have the numbers and has to seek the support of opposition parties. The government, as quid pro quo, might accept some of their demands.
On Thursday, Congress leaders were desperately trying to send across the point that the government's full intention is to bring the most talked about bill in the ongoing session—most likely on Tuesday—which is slated to end on December 22 but could be extended by a day.
For the next two-three days, both government and Congress managers will deliberate and finalise the amendments to the bill.