M A I N   N E W S

On the back foot, PM calls meeting with UPA allies
Deliberations to be followed by all-party meet on Wednesday
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, December 12
As a united Opposition joined hands with Team Anna on the Lokpal issue, a jittery UPA government rushed to line up a series of consultations over the next few days for the smooth passage of the Lokpal Bill during the ongoing session of Parliament.

In addition, it is also set to approve three key anti-corruption legislations — the Whistleblower’s Bill, the Judicial Accountability Bill and the Citizens’ Redress Bill — at the Union Cabinet meeting tomorrow in keeping with its promise to put in place a comprehensive framework for tackling corruption.

Forced by key allies Trinamool Congress and the DMK to suspend its decision on allowing foreign investment in retail trade, the government is not taking any chances with the Lokpal Bill. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has, therefore, convened a meeting with UPA partners tomorrow for their suggestions on some of the key provisions of the legislation before it is brought before the Cabinet for final approval. This is the first time that the UPA II government has undertaken such an exercise.

These deliberations will be followed by an all-party meeting on Wednesday. The UPA government is keen to forge a consensus with the Opposition on the final contours of the Lokpal Bill so that it does not run into problems when it comes up for debate in Parliament. It has become imperative for the ruling coalition to get the Opposition on board as the UPA does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha.

The consultations follow the participation of eight opposition parties in Anna Hazare’s token protest at the Jantar Mantar yesterday where they aligned themselves with the anti-corruption crusader’s views on the Lokpal Bill and flayed the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s report on the legislation.

The government will give final shape to the Lokpal Bill on the basis of inputs it receives from its allies and the Opposition parties and place it on the agenda of the next Cabinet meeting which may be convened either on December 18 or 19 after the Prime Minister’s return from a trip to Russia.

UPA sources said the Lokpal Bill is expected to come up for consideration and passing in the Lok Sabha on December 20. The UPA government is keen to bridge differences with its allies and the Opposition prior to the debate so that it can meet its deadline and pass the Bill before the winter session concludes on December 22.

Finding itself isolated, the government will accept the demand for the conditional inclusion of the Prime Minister and Group C employees within the ambit of the Lokpal Bill.

The urgency in the government follows Anna Hazare’s threat to undertake another fast from December 27 onwards at the Ramlila Grounds. He has also threatened to campaign against the Congress in next year’s five assembly polls if the Parliament does not pass his version of the Lokpal Bill in the winter session.

At the same time, the Congress, which had declined join opposition parties in the debate organised by Team Anna at Jantar Mantar yesterday, hit out at the anti-corruption crusader. Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said, "Intent of whole Anna team, Ravi Shankar and Ramdev is political. Corruption is not the issue. The attempt is to create an environment against Congress,” adding that it the BJP’s gameplan is to divert attention from Sangh members involved in terror activities. He said Rahul Gandhi made statement in Parliament that Lokpal should have constitutional status but the opposition made fun of him . “ He has not made any other statement. Why are they targeting him? They see corruption only in Congress ruled states and not non-Congress ruled states," he added.

3 legislations ready

Set to approve three key anti-corruption legislations - the Whistleblower’s Bill, the Judicial Accountability Bill and the Citizen’s Redress Bill - at the Union Cabinet meeting on Tuesday

Keen on consensus

The UPA government is keen to forge a consensus with the opposition on the final contours of the Lokpal Bill so that it does not run into problems when it comes up for debate in Parliament. 









CEC disapproves of Anna movement
Pratibha Chauhan
Tribune News Service

Shimla, December 12
Completely disapproving the civil society movement, led by Anna Hazare, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Dr SY Quraishi today asserted that the government should expedite the passing of electoral reforms in Parliament rather than leaving it to those sitting at Jantar Mantar.

Dr SY Quraishi
Dr SY Quraishi

“There is a solution for every crisis and taking to the roads is certainly easy, but a rollback is not that simple,” said Quraishi, who delivered the convocation address at Himachal Pradesh University (HPU) here today. He added that there could be a few aberrations, but otherwise the Indian democracy was admired world over and such civil society movements only amounted to undermining its effectiveness.

“You cannot love democracy and at the same time hate politicians as the fact is that not every leader is corrupt and it is only on account of wise political leadership that India in sharp contrast to its neighbours facing anarchy has emerged as a major power on the global scenario,” he remarked. He said though legally speaking Anna Hazare had every right to protest, but there was also the question of propriety and ethics.

The CEC said corruption was deep rooted and everyone was concerned about it. “Electoral reforms should be able to weed out corruption to a great extent as those who spend crores of rupees to win elections obviously start recovering it through unfair means right from the day one they are elected,” he said.

He said some of the crucial electoral reforms, including debarring criminals from contesting elections and bringing transparency in political funding, were likely to be placed in Parliament shortly. “The government is seriously considering brining in wide-reaching reforms electoral reforms, which have been pending for the last 20 years as a series of serious talks have been held on the issue,” he informed.

He said there should also be a rethink on the issue of allowing undertrials to contest polls. “When they are debarred from having four of their fundamental rights, including right to liberty, free movement, occupation and dignity, along with voting right, then we need to ponder whether they should be allowed to contest,” he quipped.

Quraishi, while admitting that there is extensive use of black money during elections, said though the Election Commission tried to keep a check, but it did not have a magic wand to keep a complete tab on the practice.



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