The Union Cabinet is likely to meet either on December 18 or 19 after the return of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from Russia to take a call on the contentious issues related to the Lokpal Bill on the basis of inputs given by the Parliamentary Standing Committee and the all-party meet on Wednesday night.
According to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, the government intends to move the Bill in the Lok Sabha on December 20 for consideration and passage, along with amendments, if any, approved by the Cabinet.
Given the divergent views among political parties, particularly on the nature of jurisdiction of the Lokpal over the CBI and the Central Vigilance Commission and the modalities over bringing the office of Prime Minister within the ambit of the institution, the task of the government is cut out in shaping amendments to the Bill to ensure its smooth sailing in both Houses of Parliament.
The Bharatiya Janata Party and Left parties are emphatic that without the investigative wing of the CBI under it, the Lokpal will not be effective. There is a broad consensus within the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) on bringing Prime Minister under the Lokpal, but with caveats. The ruling combine is of the view that inclusion of Prime Minister should be with safeguards covering national security and foreign affairs.
The UPA leaders are not willing to talk in concrete terms on how exactly the government would go about reconciling the differences. Indications are that the government is keen on according constitutional status to the Lokpal, a suggestion made by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi.
For the record, all political parties are for adoption of the Bill in the current session of Parliament and assert that it has nothing to do with the threat of another agitation by activist Anna Hazare.
Since the winter session is scheduled to end on December 22, the government is looking at various options, including its extension after the Christmas break in a bid to see through the Bill in the session.