Lokpal Bill may not be passed in budget session

By Amit Agnihotri

New Delhi:The anti-corruption Lokpal Bill looks unlikely to be passed in the current budget session of parliament that ends May 22. While the opposition is focussing its attention on the presidential polls, Team Anna’s movement appears to have lost steam.

The opposition does not seem to be in a hurry over passage of the bill even as the government is trying to narrow down the differences, said a parliamentary source who has been following the bill’s passage.

The opposition’s attention has now moved away from the bill because of its preoccupation with the presidential elections slated for July. Besides, anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare also appears to have lost some of his appeal among the people, the source added.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was backing Hazare wholeheartedly during the winter session last year in order to pressurise the government, the party has criticised Team Anna for abusing parliamentarians at the start of the budget session.

During the March 23 all-party meeting addressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, most leaders were in favour of separating state Lokayuktas from the bill.

This amendment had to be approved by the union cabinet before the bill was presented in the Rajya Sabha, where it has been lying stuck since the winter session.

Even if the Rajya Sabha passed an amended bill, it would have to go to the Lok Sabha again for fresh approval, which might not be possible during the budget session, said the source.

As of now, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V. Narayanasamy is informally speaking to leaders of various parties on how to take the bill forward, said the source.

Last month, Narayanasamy said that differences on the bill had been narrowed down to five or six issues. During the debate on the bill in the winter session in the upper house the total number of amendments moved by members was 149.

“We are engaging with various political leaders and trying to bring consensus on major issues, and trying to bring the bill before parliament,” he had said.

The main votary of separating the Lokayukta and the Lokpal Bill is United Progressive Alliance ally Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee.

The Lokayukta was made part of the Lokpal Bill, 2011, as there was no uniformity in the various Lokayukta Acts in the states, said an official.

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