Under pressure from the Trinamool and DMK - key constituents of the ruling UPA - the government on Tuesday gave ground and made it optional for states to have lokayuktas in the proposed lokpal legislation.
The Trinamool Congress and the DMK joined the opposition parties in Lok Sabha in objecting to the enabling provision for the setting up of lokayuktas in states through the lokpal bill.They said the move was against the federal structure and an attack on the autonomy of the states.
"Don't undermine the state legislatures … don't undermine ministers of states and don't enter the field of state legislatures as it would be a dangerous proposition," said Trinamool MP Kalyan Banerjee.
The creation of lokayuktas under Article 253 of the Constitution would make the central law mandatory for all states, he said. This article provides for laws to give effect to international agreements and gives Parliament the powers to make any law for the whole or any part of India.
TKS Elangovan of the DMK urged the government to leave legislating for lokayuktas to the states.
"We are opposed to any trespassing on the powers of the states," he said.
Echoing the views of NDA partners on the issue, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav said the bill was a "dacoity" on the rights of states.
"We reject this. Are you saying that state governments do not function?" he asked.
Members of opposing parties showed unanimity in voicing reservations on supposedly excessive powers sought to be vested in the proposed lokpal.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), another UPA constituent, agreed with its political rival Shiv Sena that the Prime Minister should not be brought under the lokpal.
Without taking anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare's name, Banerjee attacked him for pressuring the government with his hunger strike threats to pass the lokpal bill.
"Allow me to cross-examine the anchor. Let me understand his knowledge, his integrity and his stand. A gentleman goes on to a manch and gives a speech saying that we have to bring it very quickly. Someone is creating pressure by saying that he will go on a hunger strike if the bill is not passed by December 27 … this is not right," he said.
Banerjee added, "We are bringing this bill under pressure. This does not give a very good image of the members of Parliament. A wrong signal has gone. The dignity of this house has to be maintained."
NCP MP Supriya Sule concurred, saying the bill should not be passed in this manner.
Echoing Banerjee's views, Shiv Sena's Anant Geete said the members were trying to create a "super power" in the form of the lokpal.
"The dignity of the chair of Prime Minister should not be compromised. What kind of institution are we creating?"
Sharad Yadav also made an indirect reference to Hazare's fast.
"Who is in this agitation? Are there any tribals, Dalits, backward classes, farmers or minorities represented? Who are these people? Whom are you scared of?" he asked.
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