New Delhi, Dec 30: Home Minister P Chidambaram today hit out at the BJP, who he alleged, in "connivance" with some other parties (read Left) orchestrated yesterday's stalling of Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha.
Addressing a press conference with Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal and Information & Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, Chidambaram said the leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley had at the beginning of the debate yesterday had said that the opposition was ready to support the Lokpal Bill if three main amendments were accepted.
"How did the BJP know that with the party having only 51 members that the three main amendments would be passed? It's clear that they had an understanding with some other parties and he was trying to force down these amendments through the minister's throat", said Chidambaram.
On the future of Lokpal Bill, Chidambaram said, numbers may not change dramatically in the Rajya Sabha, but I think people will teach lessons to the political parties on this issue, and I think parties, including the Congress, will learn lessons to get the bill passed.
Ambika Sonia was more direct. She said, Congress would make it an issue during its campaign in the forthcoming Assembly elections.
"We fulfilled our promise to bring the Lokpal bill in the winter session, and got it passed in the Lok Sabha, but it was the BJP which voted out the Constitutional Amendment bill and stalled the Lokpal bill in Rajya Sabha. BJP made compromises because of political interests", she said.
Chidambaram pointed out that the government had already accepted critical amendments in the Lok Sabha, like exclusion of armed forces from purview of Lokpal, reducing panel members from three-fourths to two-thirds, and even accomodated the Trinamool Congress in Clause 1 Sub Clause 4 of Part 3 relating to Lokayuktas by not making it mandatory for states.
"But the same party (BJP) which accepted these critical amendments in Lok Sabha, changed its stand in the Rajya Sabha over the Lokayukta and two other issues. Their real intention was not to pass the Lokpal bill", he said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal said, government had offered to the opposition to initiate debate on Dec 28 evening itself, but the BJP wanted the debate from Dec 29.
Chidambaram said, 187 amendments were moved by the opposition from Dec 28 evening till 6 pm of Dec 29, and it was impossible to collate all of them and decide in such a short span. I've never heard it before, he said.
Chidambaram asked the BJP to clarify its stand on Part 3 of Lokpal relating to Lokayuktas.
Ambika Soni said, if one compared the Lokayukta Bill of Uttarakhand with the centre's Lokpal Bill, it will be clear that the Lokpal Bill is far better. The Uttarakhand bill provides for Lokayukta to submit reports on all inquiries to the Assembly. There is no such provision here, she said.
On Trinamool's opposition to Lokayukta issue, Chidambaram said, we will sit with her allies and sort out this issue by addressing their concerns.
He pointed out that the Trinamool minister was present when the cabinet cleared the Lokpal Bill. At that time, this issue was not raised, nor was it raised at the Standing Committee. In Lok Sabha too, the TMC accepted the government's promise, but after Dec 27, they changed their stand, he added.
We can redraft and take care of their concern, Chidambaram said.
Earlier at the Congress party briefing, party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the obstructive, dilatory, negative, politically expedient and opportunistic conduct of the BJP led to the Lokpal Bill not being passed. It was premeditated, he alleged.
Singhvi said, in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj had categorically asked the bill to be sent to the Select Committee for three months, and the party tried every trick in the book to stall it. It did not want the bill to passed and wanted to keep the pot boiling, he added.
The Congress spokesperson said, the BJP in its written dissent note in the Standing Committee had supported Constitutional status for Lokpal, but voted out the Constitutional Amendment Bill just because the idea originated from Rahul Gandhi.
This is volteface and sheer duplicity, he said.
Team Anna, Singhvi said, wanted the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill together, and the BJP leaders went even to Jantar Mantar to support this, but in the Rajya Sabha, the same leaders opposed it.
Singhvi pointed out that Gujarat had no Lokayukta for the last 10 years, the Lokayukta seat is vacant in Karnataka since last 6 months, and in MP and Chhatisgarh, there are weak Lokayuktas.