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Why Lokpal could not be postponed further

ht view Updated: Dec 18, 2013 10:25 IST
Nagendar Sharma
Nagendar Sharma
Hindustan Times
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For the first time since it was introduced in Parliament 45 years ago, the Lokpal bill which allows citizens to complain against corruption in high places, is set to become a reality on Wednesday.

What could not be achieved in 45 years since it was first introduced in the Lok Sabha in 1968 appears to have been made possible by a severe electoral drubbing for the ruling Congress party in four states recently and the rise of the debutant Aam Aadmi Party in the capital, which was born following a popular movement for the Lokpal bill.

The rare political consensus witnessed in Parliament on the bill, barring the exceptions of Samajwadi Party and the Shiv Sena, is in stark contrast to the differences between the parties on Lokpal over the last three years.

Not only a humbled Congress agreed to accept virtually everything that the Rajya Sabha Select Committee which was set-up to examine the bill recommended, the entire opposition, particularly the BJP expressed its willingness to get the legislation passed even without a discussion.

This sense of urgency is perhaps related to the timing. No party would like to take the blame for delaying the passage of the Lokpal bill ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, which are barely five months away.

Lokpal has been one of the longest pending bills in the country’s parliamentary history. It was first introduced in the Lok Sabha in 1968 and after eight subsequent unsuccessful attempts, it was in 2011 that the government was forced by a popular anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare to pursue it seriously.

Even in 2011, the government persisted with its own version of the Lokpal bill, when it was introduced in the Lok Sabha in August that year. It was only after Hazare’s 13 day fast at the Ramlila Ground that the government agreed to incorporate the views of his team in the bill.

However, once the impact of Hazare subsided, three months later the government again insisted having its way and managed to push its version of the bill in the Lok Sabha.

It failed to have its way in the Rajya Sabha and the government decided to adjourn the House at midnight on December 29, 2011, as a shocked nation watched.

The entire next year saw virtually no movement on Lokpal, with the exception of a Rajya Sabha panel submitting its recommendations.

Another year had almost passed, but the drubbing in the assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan forced the Congress-led UPA government to rush for cover and it knew perhaps, that though in its last lap, it may no longer be able to postpone this legislation.