The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is set to blink over the Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill issue. Indeed, it could happen as early as Wednesday, when a meeting of all political parties, convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, takes place.
Straws in the wind suggest that the government may finally agree to offer two major concessions: bringing the prime minister as well as the 5.7 million strong junior bureaucracy of the central government under the ambit of the bill, with some safeguards. The bill will be moved in parliament on December 20, allowing lawmakers just two days to deliberate on the legislation before the winter session ends.
The UPA government is under immense pressure on the Lokpal issue from social activist Anna Hazare and virtually the entire opposition, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Left parties and now the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Hazare has already threatened to start a new and much bigger protest at New Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan from December 27 following his one-day fast at the weekend.
The core Congress leadership is reported to have already met to discuss the issue, with Sonia Gandhi and Singh convening a meeting before UPA allies were invited to fine tune the Lokpal Bill to assist with its passage.
While the BJP has threatened to move an amendment motion if their demands are not met over the bill, the BSP has already indicated it won’t support the proposed legislation in its current form. BSP supreme leader and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati has accused the UPA government of dithering on bringing a strong Lokpal bill because of its likely effect on the Congress Party.