"Anna should realise that BJP is against Lokayuktas'
Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said on Saturday that the government would not accept all amendments moved by the Opposition to the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill.
“I can't recall any example where 187 amendments were introduced in the second House [the Rajya Sabha] by the same parties which voted in the first House [the Lok Sabha],” he said, asserting that the government had stalled the BJP's attempts at scuttling the Bill.
“We may have to redraft or redefine one or two clauses. We may have to accept one or two amendments. But we can't accept 187 amendments. It will be an unrecognisable Bill.”
Mr. Chidambaram said had the Bill been passed in the present form, Parliament would have become the laughing stock of the judiciary when it reviewed it.
Responding to the BJP's comments on the exclusion of the Lokayukta, he said the ‘sense of the House' resolution prepared by prominent leaders, including Lal Krishna Advani, had stated that the Bill would have Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas in the States. “Inclusion of Lokayuktas is one of the key demands of [social activist] Anna Hazare,” he said, criticising the BJP for opposing it at the last moment. “I sincerely hope that Anna Hazare recognises that the BJP opposed the Lokayukta in one form or the other. He had raised the issue that the common man was affected by corruption at the lower level, which is in the State's jurisdiction. That should become the focus of the Bill — that political parties want Lokpal at the Centre but no Lokayukta at the State level,” Mr. Chidambaram said.
He refuted the allegation that the absence of 13 Congress MPs made the government weaker on the floor of the House. “We would have required 338 votes to pass the Constitution (116th Amendment) Bill. Let us not have any illusion. The absence of 13 MPs did not make an issue.”
He said the government would work with its allies, especially the Trinamool Congress, to convince them to vote for the Bill in the budget session.
Reacting to the lukewarm response to Team Anna's protest in Mumbai, Mr. Chidambaram said: “I think people are beginning to realise that though civil society has the right to raise its voice, law-making is a complex exercise best left to the legislature.”
Mr. Chidambaram said the security situation, especially in troubled areas such as Jammu and Kashmir and north-eastern States and the naxal-affected States, was better than what it was last year.
“2011 has been the most peaceful year in Jammu and Kashmir. Tourism has gone 60 per cent higher than in 2010. The number of lives lost is at a historic low. Violence has reduced, but the level of violence is still unacceptably high,” he said.
He said the focus for the next two-three years would be capacity-building and incorporation of new technology for better security.
Mr. Chidambaram expressed unhappiness at the situation in the naxal-affected Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. “We had a review meeting…a month ago. I am not happy with the situation there. We have pumped in a lot of resources there. Still, there is a lot of concern about Gadchiroli. Naxalism has declined but it has to decline further.”