Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

No Lokpal

On 29/12/2011 Rajya Sabha was to vote on the Lokpal and the Lokayuktas Bill, 2011. It was adjourned sine die without vote. Parliament was called to sit on 27, 28 and 29 of December 2011 to pass Lokpal Bill. Lok Sabha passed it. Rajya Sabha did not.

Winter session was supposed to end on 22/12/2011. Anna Hazare had announced his three days fast beginning on 27/12/2011 if the bill had not been passed by then and thereafter three days of jail bharo andolan. If the Parliament passed Lokpal Bill by 22/12/2011 India Against Corruption would have observed gratitude day and held thanksgiving party on 27/12/2011. Winter session saw many disruptions and waste of many days. Many parties changed their positions on Lokpal Bill. There were 17 dissent notes in the standing committee report. There was all party meeting.

Anna Hazare’s fast was supposed to take place at Azad Maidan. It was shifted to MMRDA Grounds. Three government agencies had objected to fast at Azad Maidan. Anna Hazare’s health was not good. He had fever. India Against Corruption expected large crowds on 27/12/2011. That did not take place and many people called it flop show. Azad Maidan would have been a better place. Being close to Churchgate station many people would have come there during the day.

Lok Sabha passed Lokpal Bill as the government wanted and not as Anna Hazare Group wanted. Lok Sabha did not pass constitution amendment bill giving constitutional status to Lokpal as the votes in favour of amendment did not reach the half way mark. Congress blamed BJP. BJP said Congress should look within itself and 16 Congress MPs were absent. Sushma Swaraj said it was not for BJP to fulfil Rahul Gandhi’s dream of constitutional status to Lokpal.

On 28/12/2012 at 6 p.m. Anna Hazare called off his fast and jail bharo andolan. Around two lakh people had registered to go to jail. The MPs were jubilant. They were under no pressure.

Now TMC changed course. It had voted for the bill in Lok Sabha. It now wanted amendments to the bill. It wanted references to Lokayuktas deleted. It claimed it did not know about Lokayuktas. The bill was the Lokpal and the Lokayuktas Bill, 2011. TMC had a member in the standing committee. It had a cabinet minister and the bill was discussed in cabinet. The bill was given to MPs on 22/12/2011. It was discussed in all party meeting. To say TMC members did not know about references to Lokayuktas in the bill is not credible. TMC moved amendments in Rajya Sabha.

As per one report there were 203 amendments, another report said 187. Suddenly there was lot of talk of federalism. There was not much talk of ending corruption. The government did not have the numbers to pass the bill in Rajya Sabha. It did not agree to extend the session beyond midnight. The house adjourned. The purpose of extension of winter session was not served.

Pawan Kumar Bansal said the government wanted time to go through 187 amendments. That was misleading as some amendments were counted multiple times as for example “Delete clauses 66-97” was considered 32 amendments. Congress should have put the bill to vote. It did not have the numbers and it would not have been blamed for failure. The government would not have fallen if the bill was defeated.

Hamid Ansari was guilty of allowing the debate to drag on. He did not answer when Sitaram Yechury asked when the voting would take place. He should have stopped discussion at 11 p.m. and put the bill to vote.

Fight against corruption is tough and long. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. There are many vested interests, some of them journalists, who do not want corruption to end. MPs behave the way the nobles behaved in France before French Revolution.

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