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Cong, BJP issue whips as Anna gears up for fast
The Opposition BJP and Left are planning to move amendments to the Lokpal Bill which will be debated in Parliament from Tuesday.
New Delhi: As the final countdown for the Lokpal Bill debate in Parliament begins, political parties are leaving no stones unturned to ensure that they are seen to be backing a strong anti-corruption legislation.
The Congress and the BJP have issued whips to party MPs to be present in Parliament during the debate on the Lokpal Bill on Tuesday.
With Anna Hazare leaving for Mumbai to undertake his 3-day fast, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday said it is for Parliament to decide what should be the final shape of the Lokpal.
"It is the job of Parliament to legislate. We (government) had several rounds of discussion with him (Anna Hazare) and his team. We know their viewpoints. About nine rounds of meetings have already been held with them. Thereafter also, through interlocutors some discussions also took place with them," Mukherjee said.
Making the party's stand clear on the issue, Union minister Harish Rawat said, "All good suggestions and which are practical have been incorporated and now Parliament will discuss this from Tuesday. Government has come with an open mind and there is no need to pressurise."
Parliamentary Affairs Minister PK Bansal said that When Parliament is meeting to discuss Lokpal, there is no need for Anna Hazare to fast to exert pressure.
"We are committed to Lokpal and we will pass it. Laws are an evolutionary process, don't rule out possibility of Lokpal bill changing over the years," he said.
Likely scenario in Parliament on Tuesday
If the Lok Sabha passes the Lokpal Bill with amendments, the Bill with these changes will be sent to the Rajya Sabha for discussion and passage on December 28.
If Rajya Sabha passes some amendments in addition to those passed by Lok Sabha, then these amendments will be referred back to the Lok Sabha.
If the Bill is not passed in the Lok Sabha, then a joint session of Parliament will be held.
Since the Government is placing both Lokpal Bill 2011 as well as amendment for giving constitutional status to Lokpal, it requires both simple majority to pass the bill as well as 2/3rd majority for the constitutional status.
UPA has the numbers in the Lok Sabha so it is under pressure to get it passed in Rajya Sabha where the UPA is in minority. So if the bill doesn't get passed, the Opposition will be to blame.
If amendments are passed in one house and rejected in the other, a joint session will have to be called to decide, which could delay the passage of the Bill.
BJP, Left for amendments
Meanwhile, the Opposition BJP and Left are planning to move amendments to the Lokpal Bill.
BJP leader Balbir Punj said, "Government has tried to treat the institution of Lokpal as a kind of employment agency. Lokpal should have an independent investigative agency otherwise it will be a toothless tiger. I don't know whether on this issue the government will have numbers in their favour, particularly in Rajya Sabha."
CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury said, "We will move amendment tomorrow in Parliament. People should not forget, if the Constitution gives permission to protest, at the same time it gives only Parliament the right to make a bill."
EC to monitor Team Anna for poll expense
Meanwhile Team Anna is on the Election Commission's radar too.
Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi on Monday said that the Team Anna will be monitored for poll expenditure in the upcoming state assembly elections.
"In law anyone who has spend money in support of a candidate or a party is liable for action. The law says that anyone who spends more that Rs 10 on a candidate, he first has to do so with written permission from the candidate, and if he doesn't than he is in violation of the Indian Penal Code," the CEC said.
"If they say that don't vote for a party, they are not violating any law. But at the same time if they say don't vote for X, vote for Y then they are campaigning for Y. Then it invites all the action," he added.
When asked about the technicalities of how will CEC monitor Team Anna, He said, "Team Anna is a loose term, whosoever spends money in canvassing, has to account for it. Action will be taken under IPC and fine is Rs 50."
More specifically, he said, "Anna is not on our radar. All this is hypothetical. We will see when we come to it. Any body who incurs expenditure in support of a candidate has to account for it. Simple!"
Anna Hazare is all set for Tuesday's fast as he said on Monday that he is fit to fast on December 27, 28 and 29.
Attacking the government once again over the Lokpal Bill, Hazare said that he will agitate outside UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi's house for three days starting December 30. "My agitation is not against a political party. We will agitate outside Sonia Gandhi's house from December 30. The government did a U-turn from what they promised earlier," Hazare said.
Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan said that along with Anna Hazare's fast in Mumbai, the 3-day fast will also be held in Delhi's Ramlila Maidan.
"Anna will undertake a three-day fast in Mumbai. At the same time we will fast for three days at Ramlila Maidan. On December 30 and 31, there will be a Jail Bharo Andolan," Bhushan said.
"On December 30 and 31, we will protest outside the houses of those MPs who support the government's Lokpal Bill," he said.
Hardening their stand, Team Anna members on Monday said the four changes suggested by them in the Lokpal Bill were 'non-negotiable' and plans to sit on dharna outside MPs' houses could be called off only if the government agreed to amendments in the proposed legislation.
"The four changes are non-negotiable...for other changes we can continue our fight later," Prashant Bhushan said.
Meanwhile, preparations were on in full swing at Mumbai's MMRDA grounds in the Bandra-Kurla complex for Hazare's three-day fast.
People have slowly started gathering at the MMRDA grounds even as work is on at top speed to ensure that the grounds are ready by Monday evening. Team Anna is expecting nearly 1 lakh people to show up for Hazare's third protest this year.
The security at the ground will comprise 2,000 constables, 200 sub-inspectors of police, six platoons of state reserve police force, three Quick Response Teams and two Bomb Detection and Disposal Squads.
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