Manmohan calls all-party meet on Lokpal Bill

This time, UPA wants to take allies on board before reaching out to Opposition

December 10, 2011 08:24 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 12:05 am IST - New Delhi

Faced with an uphill task of reconciling the conflicting views of political parties on the Lokpal Bill and a threat of another agitation by social activist Anna Hazare, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has invited leaders of all parties for a meeting on December 14.

A Cabinet meeting on December 13 would take a call on the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Lokpal Bill. It would be followed by consultations among the allies of the ruling combine. Wiser from the FDI faux pas, the UPA would like to ensure that its allies were on the same page before turning to other parties for counsel.

According to CPI MP D. Raja, a letter by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal to leaders of political parties merely notes that the Prime Minister has convened an all-party meeting to discuss ‘matters relating' to the Lokpal Bill. At the height of the Anna agitation in August, Dr. Singh had called a similar meeting.

The latest move is unusual for, it is for the government to decide if it intends to accept any of the recommendations of the parliamentary committee and make any amendments to the original Bill. Obviously, the government has chosen the all-party route as the Standing Committee has raised more questions than the answers.

The monumental job before the government is evident from the fact that there have been fewer areas of agreement than disagreement on the Bill as reflected in the Standing Committee report. With the winter session of Parliament scheduled to close on December 22 and a threat of another indefinite agitation by Mr. Hazare from the last week of December, the government can ill afford to be seen as complacent.

As things stand, there is little scope for optimism from the all-party meet. The sharp divisions in the Standing Committee reflect the complexities on the subject. The BJP, the principal Opposition party, has already gone on record that the passage of the Lokpal Bill this session has become doubtful after the divided report.

In the event of lack of consensus among the parties that would delay adoption of the Bill, the government can counter the Anna campaign with the argument that it did its best to get a Lokpal but was helpless. The managers of the UPA also hope that the all-party meet could deny the space to the Opposition to pin the entire blame on the government.

The Cabinet meeting would have to factor in criticism that the Standing Committee report does not incorporate three specific subjects articulated in the ‘sense of the House' resolution adopted by Parliament to persuade Mr. Hazare to give up his fast.

On August 27, Parliament urged the committee to consider the ‘sense of the House' resolution moved by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, which read: “This House agrees ‘in principle' on the following issues — (i) citizens' charter, (ii) lower bureaucracy under Lokpal through an appropriate mechanism, and (iii) establishment of Lokayuktas in the States.”

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