The war of words over the Lokpal Bill refuses to die down. Instead, it keeps getting fierce. A day after the BJP alleged that the UPA government manipulated the proceedings in the house to ensure that the Lokpal Bill was not put to vote in the Rajya Sabha, the government on Saturday shot back and said that if the opposition had the numbers in the Lok Sabha, it would not have allowed the bill to pass.
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram also put the BJP in a tight corner by pointing out that parties that supported the bill in the Lok Sabha, "opposed it in the Rajya Sabha" by introducing 187 amendments to it.
"The opposition presented 187 amendments in the Rajya Sabha at 6 pm on December 29. It wasn't possible to scrutinise 187 amendments in such a short time and this again shows that the BJP did not want the bill to be passed," Chidambaram said on Saturday.
At 11 pm on Thursday, at the last stretch of the Lokpal Bill debate in the Rajya Sabha, Rajniti Prasad, a member of the RJD, had flung papers in the air, that led to a 15 minute adjournment. After the house reconvened, the government said the vote would have to be deferred as it needed time to go through the 187 amendments. The BJP alleged that the commotion was "orchestrated" by the government because it knew it would lose the vote. Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare and his team, and key UPA ally the Trinamool Congress (TMC) have also been unsparing in their comments on the chaos in the Rajya Sabha.
Commenting on accusations of orchestrating the fiasco, Chidamabram said that there was no 'fixing' and that the bill was not defeated. "It is wrong to conclude that the Congress is opposed to passing the bill. We supported and passed the bill in the Lok Sabha, unlike the BJP which was against it. We bent over backwards to pass the bill. But no one anticipated the 187 amendments," the minister reiterated.
When asked why the government did not accept the BJP's offer of an all-night session, he said, "Extending the session by a day would not have helped. There was no way we could have resolved the matter at midnight as it would have gone to the Lok Sabha. The only prudent course before the government was to let the debate remain inconclusive so that it can be taken up in the Budget Session."
Meanwhile, Chidambaram admitted that the government was taken by surprise when key ally TMC opposed the bill in the Rajya Sabha. "We thought that we had convinced the TMC in the Lok Sabha. But later they changed their position. We failed to convince them but we are sure that we can gain their confidence," he said. He also added that an amendment or two could be accepted to rope in the the support of the UPA's allies for the passage of the bill in the next session.
Anna unwell, core committee meeting to be rescheduled
Team Anna's core committee meeting scheduled at Ralegan Siddhi on January 2 and 3 has been postponed, following the ill-health of Anna Hazare, an aide informed on Saturday. "Anna's fever has come down, but his blood pressure is not normal and he is feeling weak. He was advised to not talk much so the meeting has been postponed," Hazare's close associate Allaudin Sheikh said. The new schedule of the meeting will be announced soon. Team Anna was to meet at Hazare's native village to discuss the future strategy on the Jan Lokpal and campaigning in the five poll-bound states.