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Peeved Congress says BJP to blame for ‘weak Lokpal’

'The situation in the Lok Sabha is very clear. There can be no constitutional amendment without the support of the BJP,' Pawan Kumar Bansal said.

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A day after it lost the game of numbers in the Lok Sabha, the Congress on Thursday blamed the BJP for the “weak Lokpal” that Parliament produced on Wednesday night.   

“The situation in the Lok Sabha is very clear. There can be no constitutional amendment without the support of the BJP,” Pawan Bansal, union parliamentary affairs minister, said. “We wanted the Lokpal to have a constitutional status. But the BJP did not want it though the party keeps saying it wants a strong Lokpal.”

The opposition from the BJP also meant a loss of face for the Congress and Rahul Gandhi who had mooted the idea of giving the Lokpal a constitutional status. By Thursday morning, it was clear that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was miffed with Congress MPs who stayed away from the voting. Bansal said all of them would get a notice. “The action will be based on their replies,” he said.

But what about the fact that the Congress would not have had the numbers even if these MPs voted. Harish Rawat, minister of state for parliamentary affairs, said, “Obviously, we were dependent on the BJP.”

Sushma Swaraj of the BJP, however, rebuffed the allegation. “It was the government’s and not our responsibility to organise the numbers,” she said. “How can they blame us? In fact, the government’s false claim of having a majority was exposed on Tuesday night.”

She said the BJP had committed to support the bill. “But our commitment was for a law in tune with the Constitution. We cannot support unconstitutional laws,” she said. “We gave our suggestions… told them clearly to bring the bill under Article 252 as it would be more appropriate. We moved five amendments. But the government was adamant.

“Also, it is not the BJP’s responsibility to see to it that Rahul Gandhi’s dreams come true. Their floor management was poor. Their supporting parties walked out and even their allies spoke against them.”

Rawat said the Congress was worried that the Lok Sabha would not pass the bill. “The defeat [giving Lokpal a constitutional status] took us by surprise,” he said.

Ambika Soni, information and broadcasting minister, said the Congress had done its job. “We have brought the Lokpal bill and we think it is a good bill.”

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