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Govt scrambles for numbers as Lokpal Bill goes to RS

It's going to be a battle for numbers in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday when the Lokpal Bill is taken up for be debate and voting in the House. For now it seems that allies like the Trinamool Congress and regional parties like the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will play a crucial role.

December 29, 2011 / 11:28 AM IST

It's going to be a battle for numbers in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday when the Lokpal Bill is taken up for be debate and voting in the House. For now it seems that allies like the Trinamool Congress and regional parties like the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will play a crucial role.


Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday issued dictat that all party MPs belonging to the Rajya Sabha should be present in the House. Sonia's orders came on the day the party was cracking the whip on erring MPs who were absent from the Lok Sabha on Tuesday resulting in an embarrassment for the UPA Government which failed to provide Constitutional status to the Lokpal Bill in the Lower House as it did not have the numbers. What was more surprising was that the UPA even failed to get to the half-way mark of 273 MPs in the Lok Sabha when the votes were cast.


Sonia blamed the BJP and said the party showed its double standards in Lok Sabha, but the Government fears that the going will not be easy in the Rajya Sabha with some allies also expressing their apprehensions about the certain provisions of the Lokpal Bill and the Opposition enjoying majority in the Upper House.


The Government clearly is not willing to take any chances in the Rajya Sabha. So the introduction of the Bill was first delayed and then postponed to buy some more time.


The BJP led by Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley will move a comprehensive list of amendments - the three important ones will seek to make the establishment of Lokauyukts in the states as per the Central law optional.


The BJP also wants changes in the process of appointment of the Lokpal and more autonomy for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).


The Left has similar demands but is also seeking to bring corporates under the ambit of the law.


And what could spell trouble for the government are the amendments moved by its own ally the Trinamool Congress, seeking to change clause 63 to 97 of the bill dealing with setting up of Lokayuktas in states.


The effort from the NDA is to find a common cause and see that at least on the issue of Lokayuktas it gets the support of regional parties and UPA allies.


The numbers are delicately poised. The UPA's floor managers are trying to reach out to their allies and even parties with just one MP in the house. But much would depend on what Lalu Prasad, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati decide to do.


The three had abstained from voting in the Lok Sabha and a similar decision in the Upper House is the only way the government can get the Bill cleared.


The numbers game in Rajya Sabha:


And here's how the numbers game could play out at the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.


At least 91 MPs are expected to vote in favour of the Bill, including 71 from the Congress and its allies like the DMK, the NCP and the National Conference. They want no further amendments to the Bill.


Around 102 MPs are against the Bill, a majority of these from the BJP and the Left parties. They have called the existing Bill weak and unconstitutional and one that infringes on the federal structure. They want the Bill to be withdrawn and re-introduced.


UPA ally, the Trinamool Congress, is the only party that partially supports the Bill. The Trinamool Congress has given a notice for amendment to delete the Lokayukta clause saying it infringed on the federal structure. The Trinamool Congress's amendment will force the Bill back to the Lok Sabha.


Around 44 MPs, including those from the BSP, the SP and RJD are sitting on the fence. They had abstained from voting in the Lower House. If they do so again in the Upper House, the simple majority will go down to 108 and favour the Government.


Like the Trinamool, the SP, RJD and the BSP believe the Lokpal Bill infringes on the federal structure.


The Government can only hope that the Independents and nominated MPs will abstain or vote in favour.


In favour: 91


Congress 71, DMK 7, NCP 7, National Conference 2, Rashtriya Lok Dal 1O, TH 3


Against: 102


BJP 51, BJP ALLIES 24, LEFT 18, AIADMK 5, TDP 4


Partial Support: 6


TMC: 6


Fence Sitters: 44


Bahujan Samaj Party 18, Samajwadi Party 5, RJD 4, Independents 9, Nominated 8


What happens now:


The Constitution says the Bill must be moved for consideration and to get passed. However, in order to discuss the Bill, permission must be granted by the House with a simple majority.


If this is granted, the discussion on the Lokpal Bill will begin. The Minister will then seek for the Bill to be passed by the House.


The Rajya Sabha will take up clause by clause, each amendment moved by members. Any amendment can be accepted or rejected only by a simple majority of members present and voting.


If the House accepts even one amendment moved by the Opposition, the Bill will not become an Act.

If any amendments are made, the Bill will go back to the Lok Sabha. If the amended Bill is adopted by the Lower House, it will become an Act. But if the Lok Sabha does not accept the amended Lokpal Bill, a joint session of Parliament will be held.

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