The UPA government may finally drop the idea of setting up anti-graft lokayuktas in the states through the lokpal bill pending in Parliament. For, 18 of the 21 political parties are still opposing it and the government doesn’t have the numbers to ride roughshod over them.But the Centre may consider the suggestion made by leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley to make the setting up of lokayuktas through the bill optional — instead of mandatory, as the bill now stipulates.
At the all-party meeting on Friday — convened two days before Anna Hazare’s planned fast for early passage of the bill — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indicated that the government was not in a hurry to pass the bill that faced 187 amendments in the last Rajya Sabha session.
He hoped the bill would be passed “during the second half of this budget session”. While admitting that pressure from Hazare has forced the government to bring the bill, the Samajwadi Party’s Mohan Singh said, “The government should send the bill to a select committee of Parliament.” The CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury supported this idea.
The Congress, however, did not offer any suggestion at the meeting where Ramvilas Paswan’s LJP and Lalu Prasad’s RJD demanded the entire bill be scrapped.
But Jaitley set the tone by blaming the government for the December 29, 2011 fiasco, when a vote could not be held as the House was adjourned abruptly. Pitching for the CBI’s “independence” from the government, he spoke against the lokpal selection process, government control over the lokpal’s removal and the proposal to bring all NGOs under the lokpal.
Trinamool Congress MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said, “We are supporting the government on all other issues, but want the entire reference on the lokayuktas to be removed.”
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee reportedly doubted the utility of a select committee. “What is the guarantee that parties will take the same stand in the select committee and later in the House?” he reportedly asked.