As Anna Hazare’s fast entered the seventh day, the government on Monday declared that the Lokpal Bill is its highest priority and it is even ready to extend the current session of Parliament, concluding on December 20, for passage of the anti-corruption measure.
Citing Mr. Hazare’s backing to the Bill, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath took a dig at AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal, a one-time protégé of the Gandhian, saying those doing politics on the issue were finding fault with the measure.
Asked whether Samajwadi Party, which is opposing the Bill, has been brought on board, he said that his government will try its best to get the support of all parties for passage of the proposed legislation and it is “hopeful” about it.
“We are talking to all. We are appealing to all parties to cooperate with the government as the Lokpal Bill is the need of the nation,” he said.
Mr. Nath’s remarks came after a meeting of the Congress Core Group which saw Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi huddled with senior leaders to devise a strategy for the passage of the Bill, scheduled to come up for consideration before Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
“The Lokpal Bill is the highest priority of the government. It is a historical Bill for the country...The nation needs it... We want both the Houses of Parliament to pass it in this session.
“If needed, we will extend the Parliament session. If required we are also ready to sit till late hours to pass it....The Lokpal Bill is a very important priority for the government”, he said.
While Mr. Hazare has praised the amended draft Lokpal Bill presented in Rajya Sabha, Mr. Kejriwal has dismissed it as a “jokepal”.
“We are always in touch”, Mr. Nath said when asked whether he planned to meet SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav again. But, at the same time, he made it clear that so far SP has not given any assurance.
He said that the government is ready for passage of the Bill with or without discussion.
“The opposition and obstruction are two different things,” the minister cryptically said, amid speculation that while SP is against the Bill, it may not choose to vociferously obstruct its passage in Parliament.
Earlier, SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav rubbished as “fabricated” a report that his party may relent on the issue and asserted that it will oppose the measure when it is taken up in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
“Our party will continue to oppose the Lokpal Bill in Rajya Sabha and our stand on it has not changed,” he said outside Parliament House.
Describing the reported assurance given by SP supremo to Mr. Nath during a meeting as completely “fabricated”, Mr. Yadav said, “It has never been conveyed by Mulayam Singh that Samajwadi Party will support the Lokpal Bill. It is absolutely wrong.”