The UPA government hopes to pass a slew of anti-graft laws, Congress sources said, next month along with the mandatory Vote-on-Account when the 15th Lok Sabha meets for the last time for a fortnight, ahead of general elections slated for April/ May.
The Congress’s confidence, party sources said, hinges on the fact that the Bharatiya Janata Party — shaken by the success of the Aam Aadmi Party that has come to power in Delhi on an anti-corruption platform — will cooperate with it to pass these laws. “We are going to have a session of Parliament in the first fortnight of February and, as has been the convention, we will have a session of about 15 days or ten sittings,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said on Wednesday, adding, “We are still deciding on the business.”
He said the government hopes to use the session to pass pending anti-graft Bills that are on the Congress’s agenda: indeed, at a press conference here last month party vice-president Rahul Gandhi had said that he hoped these would be passed in early 2014. These include the Whistleblowers’ Protection Bill, The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, and The Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill. Mr. Nath explained that after the passage of the Lokpal Bill in December, the UPA was keen to clear important laws that are on the Congress’s — and the government’s — agenda to address the issue of corruption. “We will be taking up these besides the Vote-on-Account and the Railways Vote-on-Account,” Mr. Nath said. But while the government appeared confident of pushing through key anti-graft Bills that will complement the Lokpal Act, there is still a question mark on whether the Telangana Bill will go through. Currently, the Bill is with the Andhra Pradesh Assembly that is in session till January 23. Regardless of whether the A.P. Assembly approves it or not, it will then be sent to the President, after which it will go to the Cabinet and from there to Parliament.