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Lokpal debate Day II: Congress fights the numbers in Rajya Sabha

After being cleared in the Lok Sabha, the Lokpal Bill needs to be debated and voted in the Rajya Sabha. There was confusion in the morning regarding when the bill will be moved as the amended bill needed President's approval. President Pratibha has now given her nod paving the way for its introduction in the Rajya Sabha. It is now up to the government to decide when to introduce the bill. Parties on non-negotiable points | All about the lokpal debate | Who said what on lokpal | Debate divides allies | Pics

india Updated: Dec 28, 2011 13:54 IST
Lok Sabha,anna hazare,rajya sabha

After Lok Sabha passed the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill with a simple majority, rejecting constitutional amendment seeking to give it a constitutional status, the bill moves into the Rajya Sabha for consideration. There is confusion regarding whether the bill will be moved in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday or Thursday.

Parliamentary affairs minister PK Bansal told reporters that the government hoped it will be able to introduce the Lokpal Bill in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday afternoon. Hopefully, the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011 will be tabled in Rajya Sabha this afternoon," he said. Reports in the media said that the bill may be introduced in the Rajya Sabha at 2pm.

Earlier, Union minister V Narayanasamy said the Lokpal Bill is unlikely to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. The bill will have to get presidential assent in the wake of amendments made to it in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday and it can be tabled in the Rajya Sabha after that, he said. Even if the bill is tabled in Rajya Sabha after getting the President's clearance, it will be very late, he added. According to some media reports, the govt is buying time to rework its strategy after the constitutional amendment bill was shot down by the opposition.

Meanwhile, President Pratibha has now given her nod to the amended Lokpal Bill, as approved by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, paving the way for its introduction in the Rajya Sabha. It is now up to the government to decide if it wants to introduce the bill in the Upper House this afternoon or Thursday.

Even though the govt may get time before the Lokpal Bill moves to the Rajya Sabha, the role of SP and BSP remains very important as the UPA does not have the required numbers. The UPA has 99 MPs in the Upper House and the opposition has about 131.

If the SP and BSP abstain from voting in Rajya Sabha on the lokpal bill - as they did in Lok Sabha on Tuesday - the government stands in with a chance to get the legislation passed, but with a wafer-thin majority.

The government does not seem to have the numbers in the Upper House if the two Uttar Pradesh parties join hands with the opposition parties led by the BJP and the Left on key amendments.

Such a scenario would see the bill falling in Rajya Sabha or passing with amendments that would be in conflict with the clauses of the bill passed by Lok Sabha.

A fallen bill in Rajya Sabha would imply either a joint session to get it passed, or reconsideration of the amendments by Lok Sabha, or the bill going into cold storage like the women's reservation bill.

The BJP had been counting on finding common ground with the Left, SP and BSP on some amendments, but the SP and BSP's walkout in Lok Sabha threatens to pour cold water on its plans.

"We are trying to make common cause with the Left, SP and BSP on some key amendments, including an independent CBI, safeguarding MPs, making lokayuktas optional for states in the interest of the federal structure, broad basing the selection of the CBI director among other issues," a BJP leader said on Tuesday.

"We are also convincing ally Shiv Sena, anyway opposed to the lokpal, to vote with us on our amendments."

An abstention by the SP and BSP, the leader feared, would mean the bill might pass.

First Published: Dec 28, 2011 09:21 IST