With the Constitution Amendment Bill on the Lokpal failing to pass muster in the Lok Sabha, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday night demanded that the United Progressive Alliance government resign on moral grounds.
"Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has no moral right to continue in office," BJP leader Yashwant Sinha told reporters after the embarrassing development for the UPA government.
Sinha noted that the government could not muster even a simple majority of 273 votes in favour of the amendment; it managed only 250 votes on the crucial legislation.
"Rahul Gandhi's dream has been shattered. This shows the monumental inefficiency of this government," Sinha added.
"I had said during my speech (during the Lokpal Bill debate in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday) that the prime minister spoke as if he was making his farewell speech. If any morality is left in them, they should quit," Sinha said.
It was the government's responsibility to ensure the requisite numbers in the House and not that of the Opposition, he added.
Communist Party of India MP Gurudas Dasgupta said the government should "look into the mirror" as it could not mobilise the required strength for the Constitution Amendment Bill.
The Lokpal, Dasgupta said, was no more a Lokpal, "but only its caricature."
Minister of State for Department of Personnel and Training V Narayanasamy, who had moved the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, said, "We will bring the bill to Rajya Sabha. We will try hard for its passage there despite knowing that we don't have a majority."
BJP leader Gopinath Munde also demanded that the UPA government should quit on moral grounds as they "miserably failed" to garner the requisite support.
Reacting to the charges, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi trained guns on the BJP for the defeat of the bill, saying "a good idea ought not to have been rejected only for political reasons".
"How can those who have rejected the bill justify their conduct in light of the need for a Lokpal with an enhanced status," he said.
Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee blamed the Communist Party of India - Marxist and other Left parties for "colluding with the BJP" to defeat the legislation.
Union Minister Kapil Sibal said the BJP has "shown its true colour. They never wanted any law to fight corruption".
"The Opposition is a stumbling block and they will pay for it," he said. Sibal's Cabinet colleague Salman Khurshid said BJP "betrayed us".
"We have achieved in getting a Lokpal. We had promised a Lokpal and the Lokpal Bill has been passed. A statutory Lokpal, at least, has been established," Khurshid said.
The constitutional status the UPA government wanted to give could not be given, he said.
"Why don't you ask the BJP who did not let us do so. We had the majority and that is why the Lokpal Bill got passed."
Reacting to Congress attacks against the Opposition, CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said for the UPA to have got the Constitution Amendment Bill passed, they required support of 273 members. "But the UPA's strength stands at 275."
"So it is clear that they could not mobilise their own support base, with the Trinamool Congress also not backing them fully. Either the Congress was not really interested in this or it miserably failed in its floor management. Blaming the Opposition for this defeat is a flimsy excuse," Yechury said.