New Delhi: The much-awaited Lokpal bill will be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Thursday and will be discussed during parliament’s extended session on December 27, amid solid backing from Congress party president Sonia Gandhi and the threat of a fast by Anna Hazare.
The session, originally scheduled to end on December 22, will now reconvene from December 27-29 to discuss the bill.
“The Lokpal bill will be introduced on December 22 and will be discussed on December 27,” Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V. Narayanasamy said.
“Once the bill is in parliament, the parliament decides on it.”
However, the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, two parties supporting the ruling UPA from outside, struck a discordant note, saying the bill would give ‘all powers’ to the police.
Meanwhile, Hazare, who is to hold a three-day fast, again described the bill as a betrayal of the people and said the legislation would not provide for a strong anti-graft institution.
“People will teach a lesson to this government one day,” Anna said in his Ralegan-Siddhi village in Maharashtra.
He wondered how the proposed bill could be described as strong when the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was being kept outside the ombudsman’s ambit.
Taking on Hazare, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi said there was a ‘deliberate and malicious misinformation’ campaign that the Congress was not tackling corruption.
She listed bills on protection of whistleblowers, enhancing judicial accountability, the citizens’ right to grievance redressal, and the Lokpal bill which will be taken up from December 27-29.
Stating “she was ready to fight for the anti-graft Lokpal and women’s reservation bills in the Lok Sabha” Gandhi dismissed as “rumours” that there were differences between the government and the ruling party.
She urged Congress MPs to be prepared for the battle in the house.
Describing the Lokpal bill as a ‘pathbreaking’ legislation, the UPA chairperson urged the opposition parties and anti-corruption activist Hazare to accept it.
“They must accept it. I am always ready for a fight,” said Gandhi.
The Indian government draft bill brings the Prime Minister under Lokpal but leaves out two other key demands of the activist for inclusion of the CBI and the lower bureaucracy.
Interestingly, while Narayanasamy said the “only opposition to the bill was from Anna” both Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal opposed the legislation.
“These powers will go to the police, they will not respect us (MPs). Superintendents of Police and District Magistrates will send us to jail,” said SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in the Lok Sabha.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad joined him saying there should be “consensus” before the bill is brought to parliament and a decision on such a major issue could not be taken without giving it a thought. The SP has 22 MPs while the RJD has four MPs.
However, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said it will not comment on the bill until the final draft is circulated among MPs.
The remark came a day after several BJP leaders said they will protest the bill and called it “cheating the people.”
“Even a full stop or a comma changes the meaning of a sentence… we will see the bill and only then give any comment,” BJP leader S.S. Ahluwalia said.
The BJP said it wants the dissent note on the bill, given by its members who were on the parliamentary standing committee, included.
Earlier in the day, senior BJP leader L.K. Advani along with Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to discuss the bill.