The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is taking no chance on the Lokpal Bill.
After the recent experience on the FDI issue, the UPA has decided to first have discussions with its allies on Tuesday and hold an all-party meeting on Wednesday to work out a consensus on the contentious Lokpal Bill before getting Cabinet clearance for it.
The government had planned to clear the draft at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Sources in the government said the Cabinet would meet either on December 18 or the next day to clear the draft, so that it could be brought in Parliament either on December 19 or 20 and pass it in the winter session that ends on December 22. This is because Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be flying to Moscow on December 15 for a two-day annual summit.
A day after Anna Hazare's Congress-baiting Opposition “durbar” at Jantar Mantar here, the government wants to have everything signed and sealed, as it were, before it brings the Lokpal Bill to Parliament. This is because the tone and tenor of Opposition parties at closed-door meetings with the government, sources in the Congress say, is very different from their public stance. In private, the line taken is that Parliament is supreme; outside, Opposition MPs were playing to the gallery, the sources add.
Indeed, on Monday, Union Ministers Ambika Soni, Salman Khurshid and Farooq Abdullah separately made the point that while Parliament is in session, the House was the right forum for the Opposition to discuss key issues such as the Lokpal Bill.
This was also the point made by Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi in a letter written on behalf of party president Sonia Gandhi in answer to India Against Corruption's invitation to the Jantar Mantar debate.
Meanwhile, the government, the sources said, may accept the demand to include Prime Minister within the ambit of the Lokpal Bill with some conditions (like excluding decisions taken on external affairs, national security, etc), even though its preference is for placing Prime Minister under the purview of the proposed ombudsman after the latter demits office.
As for Group C employees, with many Congress MPs too pressing for their inclusion, the government is likely to accept this in some form.
However, the government remains opposed to bringing the Central Bureau of Investigation under its purview.