New Delhi: Anna Hazare’s threat to go on a hunger strike from December 27 has put the Centre on the back foot and the Congress-led UPA government is now trying to win support of political parties on major issues of contention regarding the Lokpal Bill.
According to reports, the UPA government is likely to introduce the Lokpal Bill in Parliament on December 20 with possible amendments and has convened a special meeting of the Union Cabinet on Sunday to discuss various recommendations made by the civil society and the opposition parties.
Among the recommendations, which will be taken up by the Cabinet for review, one is to include representatives of Scheduled Castes and Tribes (SC/STs) and Other Backward Castes (OBCs) in the anti-graft body.
Political parties such as RJD, LJP and the Samajwadi Party have been demanding that half of the members of the new ombudsman agency should represent the SC/STs and the OBCs. Leaders like Mayawati, Ram Vilas Paswan and Lalu Prasad Yadav have been pressing for reservation among the nine members of the Lokpal, as well as in the selection committee that will appoint them.
Till now, no constitutional body in the country has a quota governing its members, hence giving reservation in the Lokpal will be difficult for the Centre, and the move could face legal hassles.
Along with BJP and the Left, Anna has also stepped up pressure on the Centre for passing a strict anti-graft legislation urgently to create an ombudsman agency that will be empowered to check corruption among government servants.
In view of Anna’s threat, the Union Cabinet would discuss the format of the Lokpal Bill on Monday and approve it so that it could be tabled in Parliament on December 20 with possible amendments.
Meanwhile, the Centre has also formed a three-member team of the Cabinet - comprising Law Minister Salman Khurshid, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Minister of State in the Prime Minister`s Office V Narayanasamy – which will hold internal consultations to finalise the bill.
The final draft of the Lokpal Bill will be overseen by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, according to sources.
The consultations come in the wake of the meetings of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) leaders this week and an all-party meeting on the contentious legislation, which ended inconclusively.
The fresh move by the government to introduce the Lokpal Bill comes a day after Anna Hazare threatened a fresh agitation from January 1 if a "strong Lokpal bill" is not passed by then.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is on a three-day visit to Russia, will be back in the capital Saturday evening, a day before the scheduled special meeting of the Cabinet.