Lokpal storm in Parliament

The Lok Sabha resumed its debate on the lokpal bill today after the Christmas break, even as anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare launched his three-day public fast in Mumbai for a stronger watchdog against graft. Eight hours have been earmarked for the debate in the house.

The battle-lines are not as clear as might have seemed earlier, as the opposition has shown no eagerness to pass the bill as it stands. As many as 56 amendments have been sent to Speaker Meira Kumar's office by various opposition parties. The Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition, has proposed seven of these while the Left has proposed five.        

Earlier it had seemed that the government would be able to muster enough support for at least a part of the bill which does not involve an amendment to the Constitution – particularly since the Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition, seemed to have been brought on board. But now it looks unlikely that the government will be able to pass any sort of lokpal bill by Thursday, as it had hoped.

Almost as soon as the debate began, the opposition parties demanded the withdrawal of the bill. While they had some different grounds for their opposition, they were virtually unanimous against the imposition of state-level lokayuktas and making the Central Bureau of Investigation answerable to the lokpal.

Moving the bill for consideration, minister for personnel V Narayanasamy said Parliament reigned supreme in the country. "We need to bow our heads only to this house and not to anyone else" – a clear reference to the team Anna agitators.

Narayanasamy contended that the lokpal and lokayukta bills had several unique features like confiscation of properties of any person believed to have committed an offence relating to corruption.