Few amendments can be accepted to Lokpal, not 187: P Chidambaram

Home Minister P Chidambaram today said one or two amendments could be accepted to rope in the ally's support for passage of the legislation in Budget session.

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Indicating that ally Trinamool Congress' demand for total deletion of provisions relating to Lok Ayukta in the Lokpal bill may not not be easy to meet, Home Minister P Chidambaram today said the government may accept one or two of its amendments.

Blaming the BJP for Rajya Sabha's failure to pass the bill on Thursday, he told a press conference here that the government was keen that bill is passed in the next session and has "hard work ahead".

"On December 29, they (Trinamool Congress) insisted that they are not satisfied with the proviso and that we must altogether delete part 3. Deletion of part 3 would have gone against the 'sense of the house' statement, which was that there must be a chapter on Lok Ayukta," he said.

The minister said said the government had thought it had convinced Mamata Banerjee's party in the Lok Sabha when a proviso to Clause 1 sub-clause 4 was added.

"But after December 27, they changed their position."

"You are right. We failed to convince TMC. But we are confident that in the time between now and the budget session, we will be able to refine or redraft the provision and carry the TMC with us," Chidambaram said.

Indicating future strategy on the bill, he said "We may have to refine and redefine. As far as passing the bill in Rajya Sabha is concerned, we may accept one or two amendments. It will be the same bill, with one or two amendments. We cannot accept 187 amendments, it will be unrecognisable bill."

Chidambaram defended the deferring  of the Lokpal and Lok Ayukta Bill, 2011 in Rajya Sabha on December 29, contending that it was the "only prudent course" left before the government and that it had ensured that the bill remained alive.

Attacking BJP, he said it had devised an "ingenious" method to scuttle the bill by pushing 187 amendments along with some other parties, making it impossible to "analyse, classify and distill" them in such a short duration.

"We were taken by surprise (by TMC). We thought we had convinced them after redrafting a provision, Chidambaram told a press conference here.

"It is a suspicious argument to say that the BJP supported the Lokpal bill. The BJP did not," he said.

"Because they had a certain number of votes, they defeated the Constitution amendment bill (in Lok Sabha). If they had more numbers or could muster more support, they would have defeated the Lokpal bill also," Chidambaram said.

To buttress his point, Chidambaram said, the bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha on December 28 and the government offered to start the discussion immediately.

"They said no, we cannot start the discussion on the Lokpal bill and the Whistleblower Bill together and asked for separate discussions. We said, fine let us start discussion on one of the bills at least now. We have two-three hours. they said no, the bills can be discussed only tomorrow," he said.

In Rajya Sabha, 187 amendments were introduced by the opposition, he said, adding "I have never heard of these many amendments."

Chidambaram said "Since it is the same set of political parties (in both Houses), one can expect may be one or two or three amendments. I can't recall a single example where 187 amendments were introduced in the second House, in this case the Rajya Sabha.

"And the last of those amendments was presented at 6pm. How can anyone make sense of 187 amendments in a short space of time?" he asked.

"The moment they gave 187 amendments and the last one at 6pm, it was pretty clear to anyone familiar with parliamentary proceedings that that it was not their intention to pass the bill," Chidambaram said.

There was no way the bill could have been passed on the night of December 29, he said. "The only prudent course was to take the bill to the budget session," he added.

Even if one amendment is accepted in Rajya Sabha, the bill will go to Lok Sabha, he said. "BJP wanted to force all those amendments down the throat of the government," he said.

"How do you expect the minister to rise in the chair and move the bill as amended against my wish...against our wish, we can't, a minister can't move such a bill for passage," Chidambaram said.

On accusations that the Rajya Sabha fracas was "fixed", the Home Minister said," I don't know who fixed with whom. Certainly Congress and BJP didn't fix it. We were rivals then, we are rivals today and you saw how the debate unfolded in Parliament. We were clearly rivals, there was no fixing."

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