Lokpal Bill fiasco: Blame game begins

Cong, BJP trade charges over who really prevented RS vote from taking place

The Lokpal Bill, which failed the Rajya Sabha test on Thursday, is now likely to be taken up in the Budget Session of Parliament. Sources in the Congress said the government would soon convene a meeting with the Election Commission to decide on the dates of the Budget Session.

BJP activists led by Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Prof Vijay Kumar Malhotra during a march to the PM House in New Delhi yesterday to protest against the Congress over the Lokpal Bill not being put to vote in the Rajya Sabha. PIC/Rajeev Tyagi

The Budget Session usually begins in the third week of February, but the polls will stretch from January 28 to March 3. As the start of the Budget Session could clash with the poll schedule, the session may begin after the results are out.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, in his customary post-session press conference yesterday, confirmed the bill would be taken up in the next session. "The bill is still alive and will be taken up in the Budget Session," he said. The Congress fielded its key ministers to bail out the government from Thursday midnight's fiasco.

War of words
Speaking to reporters, Bansal said, "The BJP knows that the sitting cannot go on after midnight, yet they (BJP members) were fielding speaker after speaker. If they were serious about getting the Lokpal Bill passed, they would have pressed for taking up the bill for passing much earlier and not at midnight."

Home Minister P Chidambaram said, "The BJP, which accepted these critical amendments in the Lok Sabha, changed its stand in the Rajya Sabha over the Lokayukta and two other issues. Their real intention was to not pass the Lokpal Bill."

Chidambaram said 187 amendments were moved by the Opposition from December 28 evening till 6 pm of December 29 and it was impossible to collate all of them and decide anything in such a short span. "I have never heard it before," he said.

BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj criticised  the government for avoiding a vote on the Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday. "If it was freedom at midnight on August 15, 1947, it was 'flee-dom' at midnight yesterday," Jaitley said in a joint press conference with Swaraj.

He said the government's excuse that the Rajya Sabha could not be run after midnight was not valid.
"Given the managed disturbance, we requested the chairman of the House to continue the session, but he thought otherwise," Jaitley said.

Govt behind House drama, says Team Anna
Members of anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare's team, which had been demanding the passage of a strong Lokpal Bill in the Winter Session of Parliament, alleged yesterday that the government had engineered Thursday's high drama in the Rajya Sabha as it did not have any intention of passing the bill.

"The way the voting in the Rajya Sabha was prevented shows that the government was committing fraud after fraud. They say they want to bring a strong Lokpal but they don't have the intention," said Arvind Kejriwal, a member of Hazare's core team. "It would have been the beginning of a strong Lokpal."

Another Hazare team member, Prashant Bhushan, said, "People were hired to disturb the proceedings, to tear the bill and then ensure that everybody goes home (without passing the bill)."

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