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Lokpal in crisis in Rajya Sabha; BJP vows to defeat Bill

Last updated on: December 29, 2011 09:16 IST

Lokpal in crisis in Rajya Sabha; BJP vows to defeat Bill

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Uncertainty surrounds the passage of the Lokpal and whistleblowers' protection Bills in Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

This follows the floor management mishap that led to the failure of the Bill to provide constitutional status to the Lokpal in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

 

Flushed with the success of its strategy in the lower House, the Bharatiya Janata Party is not ruling out a "strike in the Budget session that could leave the government gasping".

If the government's floor management in the Budget session is as lackadaisical as it was during the vote on the Lokpal Bills, it could face a crisis.

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Lokpal in crisis in Rajya Sabha; BJP vows to defeat Bill

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Of the 25-odd MPs absent from the House on Tuesday, a majority belonged to the ruling coalition.

New and renewable energy minister Farooq Abdullah was in London and minister of state for mines Dinsha Patel was engaged in his granddaughter's wedding. A group of Congress MPs was in Gujarat to join the celebrations.

Several Trinamool Congress MPs were missing.

Some Congress MPs had suffered bereavement in their families and informed the party they would be unable to attend.


On Wednesday, the party made light of the defeat in the House. Managers said it was an embarrassment but "we never had the numbers for a constitutional amendment Bill from the beginning".

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Lokpal in crisis in Rajya Sabha; BJP vows to defeat Bill

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Party president Sonia Gandhi said, "We were sincere and honest about passing the Bill but what the BJP did exposed its real face to India".

The BJP retorted that the Bill to give constitutional sanction to the Lokpal was not its responsibility. "If it is the dream of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, the Congress should exert itself to realise his dream. Why should the BJP?" asked Sushma Swaraj.

"When we met Pranab Mukherjee and others, we pointed out the rights of states to appoint their own Lokayukta should be protected. Don't expect us to vote for a Bill that is unconstitutional, we told them," she said.

She attacked the 'arrogance' of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in asserting the UPA had 273 MPs on its side and Kapil Sibal who said, "We want to end corruption; you want to embrace it".

"We decided not only shall we expose the myth of 273, but also teach them a lesson," Swaraj said.

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Lokpal in crisis in Rajya Sabha; BJP vows to defeat Bill

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But rhetoric apart, the prospects of the Bill falling in Rajya Sabha are real.

Without the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Congress-led UPA has 107 MPs in a House of 233 (effective strength).

The Trinamool Congress (six MPs) and the DMK (seven), sources said, were having second thoughts about supporting a Bill that "takes away the right of the state governments to appoint Lokayuktas".

Trinamool Congress plans to move three amendments; Mukherjee was in talks with party leaders till late in the night to persuade them not to.

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Lokpal in crisis in Rajya Sabha; BJP vows to defeat Bill

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The ruling alliance needs 116 of those present and voting to pass the Lokpal Bill. It will help if the Samajwadi Party (five) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (18) do what they did in Lok Sabha -- walk out. That was triggered by BSP leader Mayawati instructing MPs to watch the Samajwadi Party and do as they did.

Having tasted blood, the BJP says it will move a "thick wad of amendments", according to Shahnawaz Hussain, in Rajya Sabha on Thursday and defeat both Bills.

 

Government managers are in a punishing schedule of meetings with allies and friends to prevent a repeat of what happened in Lok Sabha.

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