New Delhi, Dec 30: A political war broke out between government and Opposition today over Rajya Sabha's failure to pass Lokpal Bill yesterday, with both sides accusing each of carrying out “well choreographed” chaos to scuttle it.
Under attack that it ran away from a vote because of lack of majority in the House, the government launched a media blitzkrieg in which BJP was the main target and painted as “villain” of the midnight drama.
The government underlined that the bill was “alive” and would be taken up in the Budget Session and get it passed after working with parties.
In all the charges and counter charges, the government sought not to annoy its ally Trinamool Congress, which had ganged up with the Opposition and declared that it would vote against the provisions relating to Lokayuktas.
Chidambaram went a step further to say that Trinamool's concerns could be addressed by refining the provisions.
In its barrage, the BJP and the Left accused the government of “subterfuge and sabotage” through its allies and friendly parties, mainly the RJD.
Seeking to bring Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in their line of fire for “keeping silent” during the episode, Leaders of Opposition in both the Houses Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj said the government has lost the right to continue in office after the defeat in both the Houses and face fresh elections.
The government fielded four of its senior ministers—P Chidambaram, Pawan Kumar Bansal, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ambika Soni—to launch a scathing attack on BJP.
“The BJP had no intention to pass the Bill. So they hit upon an ingenous devise to move 187 amendments, many of them contradictory and many of them cannot be reconciled in a few minutes,” Chidambaram told a joint press conference.
“The cat was out of the bag when the Leader of Opposition said at the start of the debate yesterday that we are confident that three crucial amendments will be passed. How did he know? So they must have got into an understanding with some other parties,” Chidambaram said.
Claiming that the government had done everything possible, he wondered how a minister could accept amendments against his wish and “down the throat of the government. How can he say ‘the bill as amended (by opposition) be passed'?”
Replying to questions on the impact of the development on the poll prospects of Congress, Soni said the party would use the issue during the campaign in the upcoming Assembly elections in five states.
In the Lok Sabha, Chidambaram said, the government “bent over backwards” to accommodate critical amendments of even the Opposition but was surprised when the same parties behaved differently in the Rajya Sabha, bringing 187 amendments.
Earlier, Bansal held a separate press conference which was focussed on attacking BJP while other ministers—Salman Khurshid and V Narayanasamy—echoed similar views.
The Congress party also fielded its spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who said the “assassins (BJP) were accusing the victims.”
Rahul Gandhi also accused the BJP of sabotaging the Bill which he said the government was determined to get passed.
Upping its ante, BJP alleged that the disturbances caused in the Rajya Sabha had the “blessings” of the Prime Minister and Mukherjee.
Charging the government with preventing the nation from getting a strong Lokpal, he said it was “very capable” of manipulation, managing and fixing.”
The Leader of Opposition said, “The strategy of BJP and several other opposition parties was to defeat a weak and spurious Lokpal law and insist on amendments which would improve and convert the weak law into a strong law.”
Jaitley maintained that “the worst kept secret since 6 pm” yesterday was that the government is going to create a disturbance with the help of a friendly party to avoid the embarrasment of facing a defeat on the Lokpal Bill.
“Subversion of Rajya Sabha by the government by denying it the opportunity to make an effective legislation is a significant moral scar on this government. The Prime Minister must now live with one more moral stigma. He won the 2008 vote of confidence through bribery,” Jaitley said.
Swaraj said the BJP would launch a nationwide campaign on “dumping” of the Lokpal by the UPA. CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury accused the government of “subterfuge and sabotage” in not allowing voting on the Bill, saying “chaos” was created in an “orchestrated” manner to stall the crucial legislation.
The UPA used its allies like Trinamool and supporters like RJD to “create chaos”, he said blaming Bansal and Narayanasamy for not allowing the House to continue proceedings.
“The UPA government is squarely responsible for this,” he said. Taking the Trinamool Congress (TC) to task, Yechury said their stand on the Lokpal issue was “surprising as the same people did not raise these issues earlier in the Lok Sabha and also inside the Union Cabinet when it debated the Bill.”