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Uncertainty looms large as Lokpal Bill goes to Rajya Sabha

Supporters of Anna Hazare during a protest at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi. The ruling coalition needs a simple majority of 123 to ensure the passage of the Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha. Photo: S. Subramanium   | Photo Credit: S_Subramanium

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Congress pins its hope on Independents and nominated members, also banks on walkouts

The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011, cleared by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, will enter a decisive stage on Thursday with the Rajya Sabha scheduled to take it up for consideration and passage amid uncertainty over its fate.

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance's tally stands at 94 in a House with the present strength of 242 members. But Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said the “worst case scenario” for the ruling coalition was a support of 114, enough to ensure the passage of the Lokpal Bill and the Whistleblowers' Protection Bill.

The Congress is banking upon Independents and nominated members to see it through. Congress managers said it could be assumed that the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Samajwadi Party, with a collective strength of 27 MPs, would walk out, as they did in the Lok Sabha before these Bills were passed.

The ruling coalition needs a simple majority of 123 to ensure their passage, but the majority mark will come down if any party decides to keep away when voting takes place.

With the Lok Sabha rejecting the Constitution (116th Amendment) Bill, the Rajya Sabha is left with these two anti-corruption Bills.

BJP leader S.S. Ahluwalia said on Wednesday that they were waiting since the morning for these Bills to reach the House, and towards the evening, it was decided that the discussion would be held separately.

With the Opposition rejecting the government's suggestion to take these two Bills for discussion together, the House would have to have an extended sitting on the last day of the winter session.

Meanwhile, as the Congress exuded confidence of enacting the Bill to set up the Lokpal, its managers launched a late evening fire-fighting, after the Trinamool Congress, a UPA ally, flagged its objections to clauses dealing with the setting up of Lokayuktas.

Political sources said the Trinamool members were planning to move amendments to drop the clauses and also to rename the Bill. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his colleagues held discussions with Trinamool representatives to sort the issue out.

Besides the BJP, the Left parties are working to move amendments to the Lokpal Bill. Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M) said the party would press for amendments, including one to ensure that the federal character was not affected, to create an independent investigation wing for the anti-graft body, bring corporate and non-government organisations receiving foreign funds under the Lokpal and broad-base the process for selection of the Lokpal.

D. Raja of the CPI too said the party would move an amendment to include non-government organisations receiving funds from the government and through foreign contributions and corporate sector under the ombudsman.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2017 10:36:47 AM | http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/uncertainty-looms-large-as-lokpal-bill-goes-to-rajya-sabha/article2755616.ece