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Mamata adds to govt’s woes ahead of RS debate on Lokpal
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

If outside supporters (BSP,SP, RJD) walk out, the halfway mark would come down to 109.

New Delhi, December 28
The UPA government faces an uphill task in pushing through the amended Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill in the Rajya Sabha, where it does not have a majority. Its problems were further compounded today after key ally Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed reservations about the provision on the establishment of Lokayuktas in the states.

The Trinamool Congress, which voted for the Bill in the Lok Sabha yesterday, had second thoughts as it feared that the state’s powers would be usurped as the legislation makes it mandatory for states to set up Lokayuktas.

Three TMC Rajya Sabha MPs have submitted amendments to the provision relating to Lokayuktas. Mamata Banerjee wants the entire section of the Bill dealing with Lokayuktas to be dropped to safeguard the rights of state governments.

As a result, the government did not list the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill for discussion in the Rajya Sabha today although President Pratibha Patil had approved it by afternoon. It will now be taken up consideration and passage tomorrow.

Efforts were on through the day to placate the temperamental TMC chief. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal met TMC leaders Kalyan Banerjee and Sudeep Bandhopadhya to address their concerns. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the Congress’ chief troubleshooter, has been in touch with Mamata Banerjee.

He also met BJP leader Arun Jaitley as part of an ongoing exercise to bridge differences with the Opposition.

TMC members were told that the original clause in the Bill was amended in the Lok Sabha yesterday in deference to the objections raised by several parties and the language of the amendment was approved by Mamata.

According to the amended provision, the Bill on setting up of Lokayuktas will only apply to states which have given prior consent to set up such a body. The TMC, however, is not satisfied and wants all the clauses pertaining to the establishment of Lokayuktas to be dropped.

Such a move will put her on the same side of the fence as the BJP, Left Front and regional parties such as the Biju Janata Dal, TDP and AIADMK which will unitedly move similar amendments to embarrass the government. As it is, the ruling coalition is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha and if a key ally also deserts its ranks, it would be staring at a very serious situation. The government, which is busy in serious number crunching, maintains it can rustle up the support of 114 MPs, including Independent and nominated members, in a House of 243 members. But the most challenging task is to ensure the presence of all members who have pledged support.




Respect Parliament verdict: PM

New Delhi: In a clear message to Team Anna, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday asked the activists to respect the verdict of the Parliament on the Lokpal Bill. "Legislation is the privilege of the Indian Parliament. That is what the Constitution says... When Parliament has spoken it is time for other persons to take note," he said. — PTI





Numbers put UPA govt on back foot
Faraz Ahmad/TNS

New Delhi, December 28
The UPA government faced a strident Opposition in both Houses of Parliament today.

It failed to persuade the Opposition to agree to a discussion on the Whistleblowers Bill in the Rajya Sabha because the Opposition wanted to discuss the Lokpal Bill first. In the Lok Sabha, it hurriedly adjourned the House around 4.30 pm when the BJP members pressed for voting on the Judicial Accountability Bill, because the treasury benches were vacant.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal later said he felt betrayed by the BJP’s conduct. “The Lok Sabha Business Advisory Committee (BAC) had decided to take up together for passage both the Lokpal and the Whistleblowers’ Bills. The Rajya Sabha BAC had decided to take up the Bills separately. As the Lokpal Bill had gone to the President for her ascent, so we decided to introduce the Whistleblowers’ Bill for passage. But the Opposition insisted on taking up the Lokpal Bill first. Now, we have agreed to bring the Lokpal Bill first tomorrow,” he said.@@In the Lok Sabha, the Opposition BJP forced an early adjournment pressing for a vote on the Judicial Accountability Bill, while the government was visibly reluctant due to lack of numbers. At 4.30 pm, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj demanded a vote and RJD leader Lalu Prasad supported her. But with the treasury benches vacant, the government was visibly reluctant to go for a vote at that stage.@@Sushma insisted upon the chair, “The time allotted for this Bill was only four hours whereby the voting should have been held at 3 pm. My members are waiting for casting vote. Please ask the minister (Salman Khurshid) to put the motion to vote.” But the minister remained unmoved proving that the government was in clear minority at that stage.





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