187 amendments played spoiler to Lokpal bill: Government

New Delhi : The government Friday shifted the entire blame for the Lokpal fiasco on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saying the opposition with “an understanding with some other parties” devised a strategy of submitting a large number of amendments to ensure the bill is held up in the Rajya Sabha.

Four key government ministers, including Home Minsiter P. Chidambaram, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni Friday said the Congress-led UPA government was the only one which wanted the Lokpal bill passed.

At least “187 amendments were moved. The last of which was received at 6 (p.m. Thursday). That is the real story,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters here, a day after a midnight drama in the Rajya Sabha ended in stalling the much awaited anti-graft Lokpal bill.

He said it was impossible for the government to reconcile with such a large number of amendments in a limited time.

“Can anyone reconcile them? These cannot be reconciled in a matter of few minutes or a few hours,” the home minister said.

Soni meanwhile was more direct and said events of Thursday night made it clear only the government was in favour of passing the Lokpal bill.

“We fulfilled our promise to bring it in winter session, even though BJP disgraced the bill and did not let it get passed. What was the problem in letting it pass in Rajya Sabha the way it was in Lok Sabha,” Sonia said.

“Just as the debate began, Arun Jaitely in his initial address said in a dramatic style that history will be witness if the bill is not passed… did they plan that the bill will not be passed,” she questioned.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.K. Bansal said government had offered to the opposition to initiate debate on Dec 28 evening itself, but the BJP wanted the debate from Dec 29.

When told that the Trinamool Congress, an ally of the ruling Congress, had also moved 37 amendments, Chidambaram said the issue would be discussed with the Mamata Banerjee-led party.

“The BJP had gone in understanding with some parties. The Trinamool changed its mind. That we have to discuss with the Trinamool. Apart from the regional parties, the BJP was also in favour of obliterating or weakening Clause 3 (about state Lokayuktas),” he said.

The Trinamool had pressed for deleting the clause that mandated states to set up anti-graft ombudsman institutions on the same model proposed by the central government, saying it infringed on the autonomy of states.

Chidambaram alleged that the BJP was never interested in passing the Lokpal bill. “It doesn’t lie in the mouth of the BJP to say they support the Lokpal bill. They oppose it. The real story is that the BJP had no intention to pass the bill.”

The home minister said if the government had allowed a vote in the house, the amended bill anyway would not have become a law because it had to go back to the Lok Sabha.

“We passed the bill in the Lok Sabha but in the Rajya Sabha they opposed the bill through the device and mechanism of amendments,” he said.

“They run with the hares and hunt with hounds,” said the home minister.

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