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Govt gears for bill rush

A group in Delhi protests against Hazare on Wednesday. (PTI)

New Delhi, Dec. 21: The government has readied a new Lokpal bill for tabling in the Lok Sabha tomorrow, though doubts over its passage in both Houses remained as many parties voiced reservations about the contents of the draft and the Centre’s hurry.

Despite stiff resistance from many MPs, the winter session has already been stretched twice first till December 22 and then from December 27 to 29 to pass the anti-graft legislation.

The bill, to be distributed among members tomorrow, will be taken up for discussion in the Lok Sabha on December 27 and then in the Rajya Sabha.

The government also intends to bring in a bill tomorrow itself to provide constitutional status to the proposed Lokpal, though it is not clear if it will run the risk of trying to muster the two-thirds support needed for passing the amendment.

This task can be left for a later day. However, the protection of the whistleblower bill may be taken up for discussion together with the Lokpal bill.

There is also a possibility that the Judicial Accountability Bill might come up in the Rajya Sabha in this extended period.

Asked if the government was confident of passing these bills, particularly the one on the proposed anti-corruption ombudsman, one minister said: “Our job is to introduce the bill and take it up for consideration. The rest is in the hands of members. We are hopeful of safe sailing in the Lok Sabha but not so sure about the Rajya Sabha where we don’t have majority.”

This morning, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee met leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley and BJP veteran L.K. Advani to discuss the Lokpal issue.

Although the BJP has given its approval to the roadmap, its opposition to certain clauses is making the government keep its fingers crossed.

The strong opposition from Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and RJD boss Lalu Prasad has added to the confusion.

A Congress leader, however, sounded optimistic about passing the Lokpal bill this year. “We must act and think positive,” said media department chairperson Janardan Dwivedi. “We expect the collective wisdom of Parliament will do something.”

He also claimed that the Congress was not worried about Anna Hazare’s threat of another agitation and dismissed the activist’s allegation that the government had cheated.

“I do not consider this view deserves my comment,” Dwivedi said.