Govt clears key anti-graft bills
New Delhi: Pushed into a corner by an aggressive opposition and the looming threat of Anna Hazare, the government Tuesday okayed a slew of anti-graft bills to tackle corruption at high places, including in the judiciary, and arrived at a "broad consensus" on the Lokpal Bill with its United Progressive Alliance (UPA) allies.
The cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, the Grievances Redressal Bill and the whistleblowers` protection bill, a slew of anti-corruption legislations expected to help blunt criticism from the opposition and Team Anna about the government`s resolve to fight graft.
The three bills were cleared even as Hazare has demanded that grievance redressal should be part of the Lokpal bill and the judiciary should also be brought in the ambit of the anti-graft ombudsman.
The cabinet decision came on a day when Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati refused to back the government on the Lokpal bill in its current form.
Keen on building wide political consensus on the Lokpal bill, with the opposition joining hands with Hazare to oppose some recommendations of the standing committee, the government also tried to bring its allies on board so the UPA presents a united approach at the all-party meeting on the Lokpal Wednesday.
Manmohan Singh discussed the Lokpal issue with the UPA leaders to arrive at a "broad consensus".
"There is a broad consensus in the UPA on its approach to the Lokpal," Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters after the meeting.
The Home Minister was hopeful the all-party meeting would be "productive" and "would reach conclusions on the amendments to the draft Lokpal bill and bring it before Parliament".
The Congress core too group met earlier in the day.
Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan, however, termed the three bills as "mere window-dressing".
"The issue is if government is serious about bringing down corruption. Just having bills is not enough," Bhushan said in a discussion on CNN-IBN news channel.
"It obviously in only window dressing."
The 74-year-old Hazare also reiterated his threat to resume protests from Dec 27 if a strong Jan Lokpal bill was not passed in the winter session of parliament.
Hazare went on a daylong fast Sunday and found backing from leaders of several parties, including the BJP, the Communists, the Janata Dal-United, Biju Janata Dal and Telugu Desam Party.
It was the first time so many political veterans publicly rallied behind Hazare.
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