Lokpal Bill hits RS roadblock

House session ends without passing bill; Opp accuses govt of running away

Lokpal Bill hits RS roadblock

Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi speaks during the debate on Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI On a day when Parliament was expected to give its decision on the contentious Lokpal Bill, Rajya Sabha saw high drama that ended without the House taking up voting on the anti-graft legislation.

Amid the Opposition chiding the government for “running away from Parliament” and “choreographing” the scenes inside the House that included tearing up of the copy of the Bill, Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari adjourned the House sine die.

Thus, the otherwise high-decibel debate ended a little beyond 12 midnight without the much-expected decision on the Bill.

The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on December 27 with amendments. However, the UPA government faced embarrassment as the Bill to give constitutional status to Lokpal Bill got defeated.

On Thursday, the government, facing stern opposition from its ally Trinamool Congress to the clause relating to Lokayukta as well as the threat of SP, BSP and RJD voting against the Bill, was resigned to the fact that it was hopelessly outnumbered in the House.

When it realised its precarious position closer to midnight, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal came to the House to ann­ounce–amid chaotic scen­es–that there were 187 amendments which have been served and the government needed time to formulate its opinion on them.

Moreover, indicating that the government may not take up the Bill till the next session that begins only in February, he said the session starting in the New Year has to be opened by the President. He meant that the session would not continue on Friday or next week. 

All along the minister’s speech, the Opposition kept demanding that the voting on the Bill should take place immediately.

Opposition Leader in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said the members were prepared to sit the whole night to pass the Bill. Jaitley said the government was reduced to a minority and was running away from the House.

Choreographed debate

“A government which did not have numbers in the House, cheoragraphed the debate in such a manner that it will not end in vote. If the government runs away from voting in Parliament, it has no right to continue in office even for a minute.”

Sitaram Yechury demanded that the government should announce when it will take up the Bill and pass it. “Tell us when you will bring the Bill, if you have no plan, say so. It seems you just want to stall the Bill.”

At this juncture, Ansari stood up to say that it was an unprecedented situation. “There appears to be a desire to outshout each other, there is a total impasse, the House cannot be conducted in the noise.  I am afraid the chair has no option.. most reluctantly.. I cannot do anything if this is how Rajya Sabha is going to behave...” He then declared the House adjourned sine die.

Following adjournment, the members came out of Parliament shouting against the government. Members of the BJP and Left staged a protest in the Parliament complex.
Throughout the day, the government was involved in behind-the-scene exercises to muster the required numbers in the 243-member House.

The UPA has a strength of 104 including eight nominated members but this number would reduce by six if the Trinamool were to vote against the government. Clearly, the government did not even have a simple majority.

As Rajya Sabha debated the controversial Bill on an action-packed Thursday, the government summoned all its pursuasive skills to save the anti-graft legislation as its allies teamed up with the Opposition parties to oppose some provisions of the Bill.
Trinamool Congress, a key ally of the ruling UPA, virt­ually became a game-ch­a­nger of sorts as it served notice to move amendments demanding scrapping of all provisions relating to establishment of Lokayuktas in the state.
 

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