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Brakes on drive to cap size of ministry

New Delhi, May 3: With less than a week left in the budget session, the government appears uncertain about moving ahead with its proposal to limit the size of the Union and state ministries and tighten the existing anti-defection law.

The Union Cabinet, on April 23, had cleared a draft Constitution amendment Bill on the proposal along with another draft amendment Bill on restarting delimitation of Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies based on the 2001 census.

The government had also announced its intention to move the two Bills in the budget session, which ends on May 9.

Yesterday, Union law minister Arun Jaitley introduced in the Lok Sabha the 96th Constitution Amendment Bill on delimitation. But there was no word about the fate of the Bill on fixing the size of the Union and state ministries to 10 per cent of the strength of Parliament and state legislatures and on plugging loopholes in the anti-defection law.

Billed as the 97th amendment to the Constitution, the Bill had been circulated in the Parliament secretariat along with the delimitation Bill, apparently for introduction on the same day. Sources said that while it was not introduced yesterday, its introduction also did not figure in the government’s business agenda for the last week of this session.

Though nothing can prevent the government from revising its business agenda, sources said the Bill’s non-inclusion has raised doubts whether it would be introduced in the current session. The uncertainty is being attributed to a lack of support from political parties as, unlike in the case of the delimitation Bill, the government did not hold prior consultations on these twin moves.

Congress sources said the proposal has serious political implications and, therefore, requires an “informed” public debate. The party, they said, would have to consider the implications carefully as it is in power in 15 states and that political compulsions might require some flexibility in any law on the size of a ministry.

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