Cong fast-tracks draft Lokpal bill

UPA keen on presenting legislation in winter session to blunt Anna attack

Cong fast-tracks draft Lokpal bill

The finance minister, top UPA sources told Deccan Herald, met some non-Congress members of the committee including Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad Yadav and Lok Janshakti Party leader Ramvilas Paswan over the last few days. He plans to meet a couple of others, mainly the Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party members, in the next few days.

The fear within the UPA is that if the report gets delayed and is not passed before the end of the winter session, starting November 22 and ending  on December 21, then the government would be playing into the hands of anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare.
Hazare has threatened to go on fast again if Parliament fails to pass the Bill in the winter session.

Thus the hurry. The government is wary of non-Congress members like Lalu Yadav, Paswan and others like Janata Dal (United)’s Sharad Yadav creating trouble – they have already demanded quota for backward and scheduled castes.

At present, the draft Bill as approved by the Cabinet is silent on the composition based on caste/religion.

Mukherjee’s meetings with Lalu and Paswan were said to be in that background, although the outcome was not known. Mukherjee has, however, impressed on the two leaders the need for approving the committee’s draft to be placed in Parliament.

Congress sources said if the report was placed during the session, the party can claim credit for it and its non-submission could be blamed on the Opposition parties. Once it was before Parliament, the leading partner in UPA can wash its hands of it, arguing that it was Parliament’s prerogative to pass or reject the Bill.

Committee chairman Abhishek Singhvi has said his panel would complete its work soon. The committee has been given three months’ time till December 7 to prepare its report.
Until it met the Team Anna members last week, the panel was not in operation for almost a month, as the term of the earlier committee ended and reconstitution took time.

Two members of the committee, however, told this newspaper that the report was likely to be submitted during the session, although they refused to speculate whether it could be done in its first fortnight.

Lok Sabha member D B Chandre Gowda (BJP) and Rajya Sabha MP Shantaram Naik (Cong) said the gathering of evidence has almost been completed. “It is now left to us. We will now begin the task of drafting of the report. It may take a week or 10 days,” Naik said.

Gowda said the views of the members will be known now as the committee will hold 2-3 sittings to draft the Bill. “Lalu and Paswan may want composition to be improved. I hope that the Bill would not get diluted,” he said, adding that any law can be passed “if we stick in principle to the framework of constitution, judicial pronouncents, conventions etc.”
Naik said, “the report is in the final stages. We should be able to finish drafting in two sittings or at the most, three.”

The next sitting of the 31-member committee is likely to be held on November 12.

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