With Anna Hazare sitting on an indefinite fast and the Congress having received a huge drubbing in Delhi at the hands of newcomers Aam Aadmi Party -- who fought the elections on the plank of eradicating corruption and bringing transparency in public discourse -- the party-led United Progressive Alliance government has finally decided to bring the Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha.
The bill has been listed for Friday, and in the event that the House does not run on that day, it will then be taken up on Monday.
Since the winter session of the Parliament began on December 5, it has not been functional even for a day with the regional parties raising issues leading to constant adjournments.
The Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley charged the ruling Congress of deliberately using their supporting parties to stall the House, saying it does not want to bring the Lokpal bill.
But the Congress countered this by saying that the Lokpal bill is being brought and along with that the government has a great deal of business and bills which it needs to pass before the winter session ends or adjourned sine die. The next session would be a short one for the vote on account and not much can be expected from that.
The BJP has said the House has already discussed the Lokpal bill in detail in the past and it should be passed without any discussion “since none is required”. The saffron party said it can be passed in the din just as the government passed the bill on supplementary demand for grants on Thursday without any discussion in the Lok Sabha.
Meanwhile, with the current Lok Sabha almost on the verge of winding up and the general elections just around the corner, the Congress has once again began mentioning the women’s reservation bill as one of its priorities. It is learnt that the government is serious about passing the bill before the two Houses are dissolved. But because it’s a Constitution amendment bill it would require voting -- and in the current scenario with its own supporting parties like the Samajwadi Party opposed to the bill, it may be difficult for the government to manage to have the bill voted on.
It has already been passed in the Rajya Sabha and now only the Lok Sabha remains. Sources say that the government can also adopt the ordinance route to show its intention that it is serious about giving 33 per cent reservation to women in parliament and state legislatures.
It may be recalled that in the case of the food security bill, which was passed in one House of Parliament and not in the other, the government then brought in an ordinance to make it a law. Similarly with Parliament not being allowed to function, sources say the government is considering bringing in ordinances since there is no time now for various bills to be passed.
In the case of the issue of equal rights for homosexuals, the government is likely to file a review petition in the Supreme Court and may opt for an ordinance since there is little time now to bring in a bill in Parliament.
In the backdrop of the huge movement launched against the Congress-led government on the issue of corruption, the government is also keen, says a senior leader, to bring in anti-corruption legislation like the whistle-blowers bill, the Lokpal bill, etc to send the message that it is serious about taking steps to fight corruption.
The party said that one of its priorities is to also pass the SC-ST promotion bill as well as the Vendors bill.
Fighting with its back to the wall after the drubbing in four key states, the Congress, as well as the BJP, is treading carefully to send the message that they are also serious about fighting corruption in the wake of the massive mass-movements launched by both Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal.
Image: The party is cautiously trying to pass some crucial bills before the winter session ends or adjourned sine die
Photograph: B Mathur/Reuters