Two days after he came out to express his disagreement with the Supreme Court ruling on gay sex,Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi gave another indication that he had decided to speak up about key issues this time by strongly backing the Lokpal Bill that is likely to be taken up for passage in the Rajya Sabha Monday.
In what appeared to be a desperate bid to regain the partys hold on the anti-corruption plank,especially after the drubbing in the Delhi Assembly elections,Rahul claimed that the RTI brought by the UPA government was a bigger step against corruption than the Lokpal Bill even as he maintained that there is 99 per cent political consensus on the Bill.
He appealed to all political parties to put aside small little differences and get together and finish the job on what he called a matter of national importance. But he did not make any appeal to Anna Hazare who is on a fast to get the Jan Lokpal Bill passed and denied vehemently the argument that the Congress and the UPA Government were trying to push the Bill now because of electoral reverses,especially in Delhi,and with an aim to spruce up its battered image.
The BJP was quick to respond,alleging the Congress and its allies were blocking the legislation.
Government seems to have changed its heart again on the Lokpal Bill…The Bill should ideally have been passed in Rajya Sabha yesterday itself. We reiterate our stand that it should be discussed and passed on Monday. If Congress and its allies do not allow the house to function,then we are ready to pass it without a debate, leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha,Arun Jaitley,said.
Addressing a rare press conference at the AICC headquarters Saturday evening along with Union ministers P Chidambaram,Kapil Sibal and V Narayanasamy and party general secretary Ajay Maken,Rahul said: This is an extremely important bill. And we are 99 per cent there and I think if we get the support of all the parties,we can actually pass this bill.
He denied the argument that the Congress is showing the urgency to push the Bill after the Aam Aadmi Partys stunning debut in Delhi and because of Annas fast. This is not about urgency. This is something with which we have been struggling for a while,but every step parliament is disrupted. It is not that we have not been trying to pass it,we have been working on it full time.
The single biggest step and frankly a much bigger step than the Lokpal against corruption is called the the RTI. We passed the Right to Information when we were doing just fine. We were doing perfectly well and we came out with the single biggest instrument against corruption. So this argument that we are doing this because of the result of elections is a bit unfair.
We are committed to providing this country a framework of anti-corruption legislation,the base of that is the RTI and we are adding to that. Lokpal is one addition and an important addition, he said.
He said the discussion on the Lokpal has been going on for some time now. And what we have now is a bill on which there is broad consensus. A strong bill,a bill that will completely transform the issue of corruption. The Congress party fully supports this Bill and we would very much like the opposition and other party members to work with us to ensure that this bill is passed in Parliament, he said.
Law Minister Kapil Sibal said the Bill would ensure the CBIs autonomy. The CBI will work under the Lokpal and the authority will be broadbased and inclusive with representation of all. There will be a separate investigating agency and directorate of prosecution.
He asked all parties to put aside their concerns and actually do this job.
The Congress party is fully committed to this and we are going to pass this Bill. But we need other parties to work with us to deliver. All other parties,BJP and our allies. I request all the parties to get this bill,which is of national importance,passed, he said when asked about the Samajwadi Partys opposition.
Chidambaram said none of the parties had said they dont want a Lokpal.
It is possible that one or two parties have reservations about the Bill…I dont think any party is saying that we should not have a Lokpal. They have reservations about some provisions of the Bill…Therefore there are reservations and our appeal to those parties is please keep those reservations aside. There is a broad consensus…We are near the finishing line and we want to cross the finishing line. One or two parties must set aside their reservations and support the Bill on which there is a broad consensus, he said.
Rahul – who had once demanded a constitutional status for Lokpal – said it was not the be all and end all in the fight against corruption.
I am not saying Lokpal is the solution for everything,but Lokpal Bill is a big step.. We have other Bills also which are in the pipeline…I have never said Lokpal is the solution for all problems. It is a necessary step, he said,pointing out that the UPA government has been working on creating an infrastructure and framework of legislations to fight corruption.
Rahul,however,did not make any appeal to Anna.
Annaji is on fast. That is his perspective. Our job,as far as I am concerned,is to give this country a powerful Lokpal Bill…What we need is one per cent movement from the political parties of this country, he said.