India

UPA Allies Divided on Lokpal Bill

BeyondHeadlines News Desk

New Delhi:  Bowing to Anna Hazare’s fast against corruption in April, the government had agreed to setup a drafting committee to discuss the formation of a Lokpal (Ombudsman).

“We will sit with Anna Hazare and draft a good bill,” Congress leader and one of the members of the drafting committee had said in April.
But the drafting process now faces the great Indian political divide. There are reports of divisions with the UPA alliance over what should be included in the draft of the bill.

Many within the UPA want the prime minister to be under its ambit while others remain ambivalent.

“Drafting a bill is a serious job and ministers need to discuss things freely and frankly,” Pranab Mukherjee said.

Since it’s a Congress vs allies vs Opposition battle, consensus building will be tough. Things don’t look good as the Opposition appears more eager to raise corruption and disarray in the government than creating a corruption watchdog.

“We demand that the Prime Minister be answerable to the nation how this bugging (of Pranab Mukherjee’s office) happened,” said senior BJP leader and NDA Chairman L K Advani.

Faced with corruption charges, the ruling UPA has been accused of being slow and reluctant to react. The first UPA meet on Lokpal was held only a couple of days ago in which divisions were evident:

* The joint drafting committee has not one but two drafts

* The government draft says keep the PM out of the Lokpal ambit

* But the DMK, a key constituent of the ruling coalition, wants the prime minister covered

* Allies like the Trinamool, NCP and National Conference (NC) may go with what the Congress decides

* But parties like the SP and the BSP are neither saying No or Yes

Right now, there is no clarity in the ruling UPA.

“The government is already on the job; Congress will present its views when Parliament is in session. This is essentially a matter for the government and the Parliament Affairs Minister to discuss,” Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said.

With the government unsure, the Opposition is playing hard to get

* The government has called for an all-party meet in July

* The Opposition is angry why government discussed the bill with the civil society first

* The BJP and allies first want the government and the Congress to make their stand known

* The Left wants draft of the government bill before the all-party meet

Effectively, a political cat and mouse game is on. No one wants to commit what kind of Lokpal they want.

“Let them bring the draft first, then we will say whether we will support it, oppose it or ask for amendment,” said Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition, Lok Sabha.

“The government can continue discussions but we would first like to know what their proposal is,” JDU leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said.
The government had promised to pass the bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. The shifting of the Monsoon Session from July to August is sign that the government is trying to buy time.

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