CMs reply to Centre on Lokpal letter

Several Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states have expressed surprise over why they are being consulted now when final draft is not ready and demanded that their opinion is sought on the whole bill and not just on the six issues where differences have cropped up between the Centre and the civil society. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is chairman of the joint Lokpal Bill drafting panel, had sent six questions on the proposed legislation to the Chief Ministers seeking their opinion on them.

Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit in her reponse to the Centre has opposed to the idea of setting up of Lokpal and advised that the exsiting mechanism against corruption should be strengthened.

"My government strongly believes that rathers than creating institutions which are unaccountable and adversely affecting the checks and balances already visualised in the Constitution, it is advisable that existing institutions are further strengthened," she wrote to Mukherjee. Expressing surprise that views on such a crucial issue are being sought in such a "casual and hurried manner", Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said without looking into contents of the final draft, it would be inappropriate to express any opinion." He asked the Centre to first settle the bill and then ask for states' views.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said setting up of institution of Lokpal is a laudable initiative, but the Centre should consult the states on the whole bill and not just on six points on which the government and the civil society representatives have different opinions.

He also said any consultation with the state without preparing the final draft is a "premature and casual process." Chief Ministers of Haryana, Kerala and Maharashtra, which are ruled by the Congress, have strongly toed to party line.

"I subscribe to the views of the All India Congress Committee," Kerala Chief Minister Ommen Chandy said in his response. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who is heading the Congress Government, has reserved his opinion and said wider consultation is required, including with major national political parties.

But  Raman Singh, chief minister of BJP-ruled Chhatisgarh said consultation without a draft Bill is premature and it is "curious" that CM's are being consulted only on six issues and not on the entire range. Similar views were expressed by chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand Chief Ministers.

Orrisa's Naveen Patnailk also asked for final draft and consultations on all the points in the Lokpal Bill.

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