|Kiran Bedi exchanges a word with Anna Hazare as a jubilant supporter hands him roses in Ralegan Siddhi. (PTI)
New Delhi, Dec. 18: Rahul Gandhi today called for extending Parliament’s winter session to pass a host of anti-graft laws, saying the Lokpal alone was “not adequate” to fight corruption, but the continuing din ensured an early end to a stormy fortnight.
Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the House sine die, two days before the session’s scheduled end, not long after the Lok Sabha had passed the Lokpal bill.
Kumar’s sudden move came as protests, that have stalled proceedings every day since the session started on December 5, erupted over America’s “insulting” treatment of diplomat Devyani Khobragade.
The Rajya Sabha, which had passed the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2013, yesterday, was also adjourned sine die later.
Earlier in the Lok Sabha, members from Andhra Pradesh, including YSR Congress leader Jaganmohan Reddy, chanted slogans against the state’s planned bifurcation even as the lower House discussed the bill on the anti-corruption watchdog.
But the ruling and the Opposition benches were determined to battle out the din and pass the bill, which promises to punish corruption by public servants, including the Prime Minister.
Rahul, who participated in the debate, said the bill was being passed by Parliament after 45 years and so members had a “chance to make history”. But he said the Lokpal alone was not enough and the winter session needed to be extended to pass a set of anti-corruption bills pending before Parliament.
“The Lokpal bill is not adequate to fight corruption. There is need for a comprehensive code…. Can we not extend this session to pass the pending bills? It is about a framework to fight corruption,” the Congress vice-president said as party MPs thumped desks.
Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj said the credit for the anti-corruption legislation should go to activist Anna Hazare.
“If there is one person who deserves credit for the Lokpal bill, it is the old man Anna Hazare. He fasted and put pressure on us to pass the bill,” the BJP leader said.
She said the people of India, who put pressure on politicians to pass the bill, also deserved credit.
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav was the lone dissenter and literally pleaded with Sonia Gandhi and L.K. Advani to get the bill withdrawn.
“Advaniji, you are a seasoned politician. Leave aside Sushmaji and raise your voice. This bill will halt everything. No minister or officer will sign on any file,” the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister said, looking towards the BJP benches.
He then appealed to the Congress president to intervene. “Soniaji, withdraw this bill.… It is a black day for our democracy,” Mulayam said.
The Samajwadi chief made the same request to the Speaker before walking out of the House with his MPs in protest.
Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav, too, opposed the bill in his speech. “I rise to support this bill.… But I want to point out that it is dangerous. Putting the Prime Minister under its ambit is dangerous. Now a constable can hound the PM,” the Bihar leader said.
Dal (U) insiders said Sharad was vehemently against the bill but had to support it as chief minister Nitish Kumar wanted him to.
The Lokpal bill was passed by voice vote even as the MPs from Andhra chanted slogans against the creation of a Telangana state.
The bill will come into force as a law once the President gives his assent and the government notifies it.