‘BJP stalled passage of Lokpal Bill in Upper House'

A day after the Rajya Sabha witnessed “no vote” on the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011, Home Minister P. Chidambaram admitted that there were differences between the Congress and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance, but blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party for stalling its passage.

The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on December 27 with some critical amendments but could not be put to vote in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday after a 12-hour debate ended abruptly at midnight. For, the House ran out of time and several regional parties raised objections to some provisions of the Bill. The Opposition and the UPA allies had together moved 187 amendments to the Bill as passed in the Lok Sabha.

“Those who moved amendments had no intention of passing the Bill... By no stretch of imagination could 187 amendments have been examined, analysed and accepted or rejected in the available time,” Mr. Chidambaram said here on Friday. However, “the Bill is not defeated. It is still safe and can be taken up in the next [budget] session,” he said.

On the stiff opposition put up by the Trinamool Congress (TMC), an important constituent in the UPA, Mr. Chidambaram candidly admitted there were differences with allies and “we need to sit down and discuss. I would not go so far as to say that there is a pattern in [the] confrontational behaviour of the TMC.”

The Minister said an important amendment on establishing the Lokayukta with the consent of the States had been included in the Lok Sabha and “we thought we had sorted out their issue but we need to talk.”

Mr. Chidambaram pointed out that the draft had been discussed with the TMC and when the Cabinet cleared it, a TMC Minister was also present. “They seemed satisfied and even voted in favour of the Bill in the Lok Sabha but subsequently changed their mind. We will have to talk to them.”

He said that between now and the budget session “they would try to refine and redraft the Bill so that it takes care of the concerns of the allies.”

It was quite clear that apart from regional parties, the BJP wanted a weakened Bill, he charged.

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