New Delhi/Ralegan Siddhi, May 21: The lokpal bill hit another road block Monday when it was sent to a select committee of Rajya Sabha amid high drama, soon after being taken up by the upper house after a more than four-month gap. Anna Hazare, however, attacked the government for its delaying tactics and announced another stir from June 25.
The bill was last debated on Dec 29 last year, the last day of an extended winter session, when the house functioned till midnight but was adjourned without passing the bill.
Talking to IANS later, Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension V. Narayanasamy rejected the allegations that the government was not willing to pass the bill.
The anti-corruption legislation was taken up again on the second-last day of the budget session Monday, and has now been sent to a 15-member select committee which will give its report on the first day of the last week of the monsoon session in mid-August, pushing the bill to the November-December winter session.
As soon as Narayanasamy introduced the bill around 5.40 p.m., Samajwadi Party member Naresh Agarwal moved an amendment to send the bill to a select committee.
This irked the opposition, who accused the government of using the SP member as a shield.
The upper house then saw fireworks, with members from both treasury and opposition benches quoting from the rule book as they argued whether the SP member had the right to move the motion or not. However, Narayanasamy soon moved another motion to send the lokpal bill to a select committee.
Opposition members then pointed out that no suggestion to send the bill to a select committee was made earlier, with leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley even wondering whether the government wanted a lokpal at all.
‘let’s answer one basic question… the prime minister and the government should be upfront and forthright and say do we want lokpal or we don’t want lokpal,’ Jaitley said, adding that ‘the credibility of parliamentary institution now is at stake’.
‘The country expects a straightforward answer instead of games being played. It has been 42 years,’ he said.
The upper house later passed, through a voice vote, the motion to send the bill to a select committee.
The government also came under attack from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the left.
While Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury asked the government to include private sector under the lokpal’s ambit, BSP leader Mayawati said the government should not ‘forget its responsibility, objecting to the SP member moving a motion for sending the bill to a select committee.
Hazare, in his village Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district, told reporters that he will go on fresh agitation from June 25.
‘The Congress-led UPA government does not want a lokpal. It is going back on its words on constituting a strong lokpal to check corruption in the country, he added.
‘The government is staging a drama… Select committee is not a solution, the solution is to scrap this bill and bring a fresh bill, team Anna member Manish Sisodia said.
Narayanasamy, meanwhile, said the government has done ‘all that is possible to get the bill passed.
‘We talked to everyone and brought the bill, got it passed in the lok Sabha… In Rajya Sabha, our numbers are few. We held meetings with all parties…. Now select committee will be the right place to address the concerns of all parties. Government has done all things possible, he said.
Asked if the bill will be passed in the monsoon session, or the winter session, he said: ‘We will see. It depends on how the work of the committee progresses.’