New Delhi, Dec 28: Uncertainty prevailed over the passage of Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha tomorrow with Trinamool Congress tonight deciding to make a key amendment to the legislation adopted by Lok Sabha further complicating the numbers game in the House.
Trinamool Congress, which has 6 members in the 243-member Upper House where the Congress and its allies do not have majority, wants removal of the provisions relating to the setting up of Lokayuktas in the state which is contained in the Bill passed by Lok Sabha yesterday.
If the Government accepts the amendments, the Bill will have to be referred to the Lok Sabha again or a joint session of Parliament has to be convened for its clearance.
UPA troubleshooter and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee held talks with leaders of ally Trinamool Congress which has strong reservations over provisions in the bill that it considers encroached on the states rights on appointment of the Lokayukta.
Trinamool Congress leaders Mukul Roy and Sudeep Bandopadhayay met Mukherjee after which Roy said the question of creating trouble for the government does not arise. With Mukherjee reportedly ruling out any further amendments, Trinamool Congress has tabled amendments for removal of provisions relating to Lokayuktas that it feels are encroaching on the powers of states.
In a House with an effective strength of 243, the Congress and other allies in the UPA account for 94 and can count on the support of eight nominated members and independents and members of small parties accounting for around 10 MPs.
The Lokpal and Lokayukta bill, being an ordinary legislation, needs a simple majority of 122. But a strategy is on through backchannels to ensure the absence of outside supporting parties like the BSP (18) Samajwadi Party (6) and RJD (4).
Their absence will bring down the total strenth of the House and reduce the required majority to 108 in a House of 215.
The BJP, which played a leading role in the defeat of the Bill to confer Constitutional status to Lokpal, today indicated that it was averse to voting for the Bill in its present form.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitely spoke of provisions in the Lokpal Bill breaching the federal structure and asserted that Parliament cannot pass a legislation knowing that it is against Constitution.
The party is likely to move amendements to press for establishing Lokayukta under Article 252 of the Constitution, change in the provisions of appointment and removal of Lokpal and to bring CBI under the ombudsman. The BJP also claimed that the government does not have the numbers in the Upper House.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed the hope that the Rajya Sabha will pass the Bill tomorrow and that he was “as confident as one can be” about it. Talking separately to reporters, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said, “The only thing I can say is that we are confident that we have got numbers to pass the bill.”
Government managers expect that the worst case scenario in the Rajya Sabha would be passage of the bill by 114 votes in favour in a House of 216 members.
Congress has 71 members, while its allies DMK has seven, Trinamool Congress six, NCP seven, National Conference two and RLD one. This comes to 94.
The party also enjoys the support of some one-member parties and some independents and others. The total number of independent and others is six, while nominated members are eight.
Two of the nominated, Mani Shankar Aiyer and Bhalchandra Mungekar, have already joined the Congress.
On the Opposition side, the BJP has 51, Left parties have 19, JD(U) eight, BJD six, AIADMK five, TDP and Shiv Sena four each, Akali Dal three and AGP two.
It could be a touch-and-go affair in the Upper House, remarked a senior Congress leader underlining that there were many ifs and buts for the Bill to be passed.
The leader said that if the government's bid to get the Bill passed in the Upper House fails, then a joint session would have to be convened before the Budget Session that generally starts in the second week of February.
Some of the outside supporting parties like Lok Janshakti, Bodoland People's Front, Nagaland People's Front and Sikkim Democratic Front have one member each in the House.
Faced with the embarrassment in the Lok Sabha yesterday over the Constitution Amendment Bill on the Lokpal, government managers are leaving nothing to chance to ensure presence of all members of the party as also its allies.
The last time a joint session had taken place in 2004 to repeal the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).