Lokpal Bill: Match-fixing in Parliament



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In the end, parliamentarians proved what Anna Hazare and his team had been saying all along – that cheats sit in Parliament, the highest institution of our democracy.

Before making this sweeping statement it is important to mention the context here. By now we all know what happened in Rajya Sabha on Thursday. After debating the Lokpal Bill (which the Lok Sabha passed on Tuesday) for over 12 hours, the Upper House was adjourned sine die without passing the crucial legislation.

While the government gave the excuse that the House could not sit beyond 12 midnight on the last day of the session and that it was its prerogative to decide on a further extension, the entire nation saw the murder of democracy unfold before their eyes.

Over two hours before the House was adjourned, three leading English channels had started running news flashes that the government was hatching a plan to ensure the Lokpal Bill wasn’t put to vote in Rajya Sabha on Thursday after it became clear that the UPA didn’t have the required numbers to ensure the Bill’s passage, especially after ally Trinamool Congress remained adamant on moving an amendment to delete the Lokayukta clause from the Bill.

And one channel successfully predicted event by event what would unfold in Parliament past 11.00 pm. As the script went, just after 11.00 pm MoS in PMO V Narayanasamy started replying to the debate on behalf of the government. And as the channel predicted, RJD MP Rajniti Prasad created ruckus in the House. He later grabbed a copy of the Lokpal Bill from minister’s bench, tore it and flung it into the Well of the House.

After a brief adjournment following the chaos, when the House reassembled the government “humbly” submitted that it didn’t want the session to go past midnight into the next day and that it needed time to go through the over 150 amendments proposed.

It had become clear much before that the Lokpal Bill would not become a reality in the current session. Even if the Rajya Sabha had passed the Bill with amendments it would have gone back to Lok Sabha for a relook. And since the Lower House had already been adjourned sine die, the Bill would have come up for a fresh debate and vote only in the next session to be called by the government in the next year.

But despite the fact that the chances of the Bill becoming a reality in 2011 were slim keeping in mind the government’s lack of numbers in Rajya Sabha, what’s disgusting is the way the government orchestrated the entire act to again put the Lokpal Bill in cold storage.

No one in the government could deny the fact that they had planned what happened in Rajya Sabha on Thursday night, because the media had predicted event by event what would happen in the House.

Further, the argument that the House session could not be extended due to constitutional restrictions is fundamentally flawed. As per Constitutional experts, the Rajya Sabha Chairman has the right to extend an ongoing session without seeking the nod of the President till it’s adjourned sine die.

The government may have been claiming through the entire debate in the two Houses that it wants the Lokpal Bill to be passed in the current session, but the events of Thursday have exposed its real face. As the Opposition put it, the government ran away from the vote.

It’s not to say the Opposition including the NDA and parties like the BSP, SP and RJD were serious about the Bill, but the onus of what happened in Rajya Sabha lies entirely with the UPA government.

Before the Chairman adjourned the House, BJP’s Arun Jaitley and CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury had made it amply clear that they were ready to either sit past midnight or come back tomorrow to wrap up the Lokpal debate process. But the government had other intentions. It, in fact, appeared that the government had been waiting for the clock to strike 12, so that the House gets adjourned and it doesn’t have to face another embarrassment of losing a vote on the Bill (the government’s flawed floor management had ensured the Constitution Amendment Bill on Lokpal was defeated in Lok Sabha the other day).

While the UPA government may have saved themselves from an embarrassment of a vote loss, they have put themselves in a situation where they have failed to keep people’s trust. While scripting one of the saddest day in the history of Indian democracy, the Congress’ mismanagement has led to a real loss of face for the government which appeared to be championing the cause of fighting corruption.

The events of Thursday would only help the Anna movement reinvigorate which appeared to be losing its support base in the wake of its anti-Congress campaign.

It is bewildering to note how this government has been botching up again and again. Whether it was the FDI issue or tackling Anna movement or getting the Lokpal Bill passed in Parliament, the government has made it very clear that it doesn’t have any plans to deal with issues. It always appears to be functioning in emergency mode, tackling issues by the day or even by the minute.

By such ‘bandage’ and ‘plug the hole’ tactics, the UPA is only demolishing its own chances for a hattrick.