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PM's all-party meet fails to break Lokpal jam

New Delhi, March 23, 2012 (IANS) 14:40 IST
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talking to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee at an all-party meeting of Rajya Sabha members on the Lokpal Bill, at PM House in New Delhi on Friday. PTI
An all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here Friday to end the stalemate on the anti-graft Lokpal bill ended inconclusively but decided to work towards evolving a consensus on the controversial legislation.

According to sources, opposition members have stuck to their objections to many controversial clauses in the proposed legislation that was passed by the Lok Sabha last year but remained hanging in the Rajya Sabha.

The sources said that opposition MPs offered stiff resistance to the provisions related to creation of state Lokayuktas under the Lokpal bill because it would infringe on the rights of the states to have their own anti-corruption watchdog.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury told reporters after the meeting that political parties will try to build consensus on some contentious issues during the recess of parliament's budget session from March 30 to April 24.

There are some "issues on which a proper agreement in terms of the actual drafting have to be arrived at. Many of us have given our amendments on these aspects", Yechury said.

"The general consensus that has arrived is that this intervening period of three weeks when we have the break of the first half (of the budget session)... should be used to arrive at some sort of understanding on these matters and in the second half of the session the attempt must be to enact the Lokpal."

Lok Janshakti Party leader Ramvilas Paswan told IANS that his party is opposing the bill because it is "being hurried through under Anna's (Hazare) pressure".

Trinamool Congress leader Sukhendu Shekhar said his party, the most vocal opponent of the Lokayukta provision, has "demanded deletion of the clause".

He said most of the parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded separation of the Lokayuktas from the Lokpal bill.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday had called the meeting reiterating the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's commitment for an effective Lokpal to check corruption in the country.

"Our government stands committed to an effective Lokpal legislation," Manmohan Singh said at the meeting with Rajya Sabha party leaders.

"We look forward to benefitting from the wisdom and guidance of all leaders present here in the task that we have set for ourselves," he said.

Union ministers Pranab Mukherjee, P. Chidambaram, A.K. Antony and Salman Khurshid were among those present at the meeting.

The Lokpal bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha, could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha during the winter session last year after the opposition moved a number of amendments and the government insisted that it needed time to study them.

The bill could not be put to vote even after hours of debate on the last day of the winter session.

The opposition has charged the government with shying away from a vote after the session was called off midnight Dec 29 before the debate was concluded.

Yechury said the points that were discussed during meeting included making the anti-graft body "more democratic and more accountable. A process should be worked out for that," he said.

Another issue debated in the meeting was on the "independence of the investigation for which superintendence and control should vest with the Lokpal. That needs to be taken on board".

"We have suggested that the ambit of the Lokpal should also include corporates and foreign funded NGOs which have dealings with the government," the CPI-M leader said.

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