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We have been 'struggling' to get Lokpal Bill passed: Rahul

Last updated on: December 14, 2013 18:26 IST

Seeking to give a big push to the Lokpal Bill, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday appealed to all political parties to support the legislation saying it is a "very very powerful instrument" in the fight against corruption.

Addressing a special press conference at the Congress headquarters, he rejected suggestions that the government was pushing the legislation because of its defeat at the hands of Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi polls and ongoing fast by Anna Hazare.

With the Lokpal Bill slated for a debate in Rajya Sabha on Monday, Rahul said, "Our job is to give this country a powerful Lokpal Bill. We are 99 per cent there and what we need is one per cent from the political parties and we can actually finish and deliver Lokpal."

Apparently referring to Samajwadi Party's opposition to the Bill, he said, "All parties should together accomplish this bill. I appeal to all parties to support this bill.. this is in national interest."

Flanked by Law Minister Kapil Sibal, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy, Gandhi said Lokpal is an "extremely important legislation" against corruption.

This, he said, is a part of larger framework to deal with corruption, of which RTI is the "single most powerful" weapon.

When repeatedly asked whether the government was suddenly interested in the bill because of the drubbing in Delhi and Hazare's fast, Gandhi said, "it is not a question of victory or defeat. This bill will help India....This argument that we doing this as a result of elections is a bit unfair."

He insisted that the United Progressive Alliance government has been "struggling" to get the bill passed but could not do so as Parliament has been disrupted.

Asked whether Hazare would be convinced by the government efforts, he said, "our intention was to bring an anti-corruption infrastructure. We will keep doing this...Hazare is on fast; that is his perspective."

The Lokpal Bill, in an amended form after consideration of the select committee, was brought back to the Rajya Sabha on Friday for consideration but a discussion on it was thwarted by Samajwadi Party members.

"We should put aside our differences, get together and finish the bill," Gandhi said.

When asked about SP's opposition to the bill, Chidambaram said, "It is possible, one or two parties may have reservations on the bill. I don't think there is any party which says we shall not or should not have the Lokpal. No party has said so. They have reservations.

"Our appeal to them is to keep these reservations aside. We want to cross the finish line and get it into a law. I think the country needs a Lokpal and we can have a Lokpal in this session if parties set aside their reservations".

Among the amendments made in the bill are delinking of the setting up of Lokayuktas in states, a highly controversial provision because of which many parties had opposed it in  the House in December 2011.

The new bill also grants powers to ombudsman to sanction prosecution against public servants. Chidambaram said the government has made only two, three changes in the select committee report and the minister of state for personnel has moved official amendments to the original bill.

"There is nothing in the bill that erodes the authority of the Lokpal.... This bill acknowledges pre-eminence of Lokpal,.. it gives powers of an independent investigating agency...

"This bill balances the interests of the government, the interests of the investigative agency, the interests of the prosecuting agency and the government servants and it recognises the pre-eminence of the Lokpal," said Chidambaram.

Law Minister Kapil Sibal said the Central Bureau of Intelligence will work under the Lokpal and the authority will be "broadbased" and "inclusive".

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