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Centre and BJP in Lokpal bill push

Dec. 12: The BJP today demanded that the Rajya Sabha pass the Lokpal bill, “even without discussion”, in a rush seen as the combined effect of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party and Anna Hazare’s latest fast.

The call coincided with government appeals to allow Parliament to function “at least tomorrow and on Monday” when Lokpal bill is slated to come up in the Rajya Sabha.

Rejecting the BJP’s claims that it wasn’t interested in legislative business, cabinet minister Harish Rawat said: “This misconception is being spread despite the government’s seriousness to pass the bills.”

Rawat said he hoped the Opposition would co-operate with the government to pass the Lokpal and women’s reservation bills.

Opposition leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley insisted at a joint news conference that the Rajya Sabha take up the “unanimous recommendations” of the select panel on the Lokpal bill and pass it.

The bill, introduced by the government, was passed by the Lok Sabha on December 27, 2011. The Rajya Sabha debated the bill two days later. But because the Opposition proposed many amendments, the bill was referred to the select committee.

Today, Sushma and Jaitley said although the BJP was not in complete consonance with some of the committee’s proposals, those that were “unanimous” should be endorsed by the Rajya Sabha and placed before the Lok Sabha for approval.

“For the present, for the sake of credibility of Parliament, it is important the unanimous recommendations of the select committee are adopted forthwith,” Jaitley said.

Sushma stressed that although the House was being “repeatedly disturbed” by the UPA’s outside allies — a veiled reference to the Samajwadis and the BSP — the ruling combine and the BJP-led NDA must get the bill passed.

On Tuesday, Jaitley had replied to a letter from Hazare seeking support for the bill before starting his fast in hometown Ralegaon Siddhi. “My party and I believe the Lokpal bill should be brought into force immediately,” the Rajya Sabha Opposition leader wrote.

But Hazare didn’t appear convinced. “Neither has the BJP pursued the demand for a Jan Lokpal inside Parliament, nor done a protest outside. For one year, the Rajya Sabha does not take up the issue, and the Opposition hasn’t done anything,” the activist wrote back as his strike entered the third day. If the septuagenarian anti-graft campaigner was critical of the BJP, his supporters appeared to bristle at the sight of former protégé Kejriwal’s colleagues from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

A delegation of AAP leaders faced a hostile reception when it reached Hazare’s fast venue in Maharashtra this morning. They were asked why Kejriwal hadn’t come. The group said Kejriwal had “high fever”.

Relations between AAP and Hazare had come under strain during the Delhi poll campaign when the activist asked if AAP was using money collected in the 2011 Lokpal protest.