Govt shows signs of softening stand

UP poll debacle, pressure by Anna Hazare camp and lack of numbers in Rajya Sabha making the government feel the heat, party sources say

Another issue of big difference at the meeting was government’s control over CBI
In New Delhi: The government appears all set to drop the contentious provision relating to Lokayuktas for the states in the Lokpal Bill in order to get UPA allies on board in the Rajya Sabha.

While most allies are OK with having Lokayuktas in states, they want the prerogative for appointment to rest with the states.

According to sources, recent poll debacle in UP and Gandhian Anna Hazare’s one-day protest fast at Jantar Mantar on March 25 have further turned the heat on the Government. The UPA also lacks numbers in the Rajya Sabha.

Sources said representatives of nearly 18 of the 22 political parties who attended the all-party meeting convened by the PM on Friday spoke against Lokayukta provision in the Bill and the Government for a change displayed anxiety to reach out.

Adopting a flexible approach, the PM himself made it clear that the Bill could be taken up for passing during the second half of the Budget Session (April-22- May 21) only after reaching a consensus.

“Ministers, who are usually stiff and aloof, made an attempt to reach out to political parties. Their body language was positive. For a change, they did not appear arrogant,” said a UPA leader from Bihar.

Sources said passage of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha was a numbers game. It was not just the BJP and the NDA allies or the Left parties who were opposed to the Lokayukta provision in the Bill. UPA constituents like the Trinamool, DMK and many others are all opposed to it. 

“The Government has little choice but to make the necessary amendment. Barring Ramvilas Paswan’s LJP and Laloo Prasad, there was no one to back the Bill, “ said Trinamool Congress leader Sukhendu Shekhar Roy.

Both Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley and CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said that the setting up of Lokayuktas in states should be delinked from the Lokpal.

While there was unanimity in not tinkering with the federal structure, differences persisted over the demand to broad-base the appointment process of Lokpal, which the Opposition feels is loaded in favour of the government, and the government control over CBI.

Anna threatens bigger stir 
With the all-party meeting called by the PM failing to evolve a consensus on the Lokpal Bill, Gandhian Anna Hazare dared the government that he would now go for another agitation. 

“We are asking for a law like the whistleblowers law, but the government is still not ready. We will sit at the Jantar Mantar on 25th for a strong Lokpal Bill. And we believe that if the government does not bring a strong Lokpal Bill before the 2014 general elections then we will have to sit for a bigger movement. Maybe, we will sit at the Ramlila Maidan and then the people of the country will take on to the streets,” said Hazare.