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Lokpal Bill: Cong pushed into a corner, allies give support

With the standing committee on the Lokpal receiving as many as 17 dissenting notes, the Congress managers are racing against time to narrow down major differences between the two camps.

Kay Benedict   New Delhi     Last Updated: December 14, 2011  | 12:43 IST

Pushed into a corner, the government appears to have agreed to include the Prime Minister's Office with safeguards and the Group C employees under the ambit of the Lokpal Bill.

With the standing committee on the Lokpal receiving as many as 17 dissenting notes, the Congress managers are racing against time to narrow down major differences (including bringing the CBI under the ombudsman) between the two camps.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called a meeting of the UPA allies on Tuesday night and managed to get them on board over the Lokpal issue.

Manmohan is leaving for a three-day trip to Russia on Thursday and the Union cabinet could meet to clear the draft Bill, most likely by Monday, after his return.

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The winter session of Parliament concludes on December 22 and efforts are on to bring the Bill to the Lok Sabha on December 20 and to the Rajya Sabha within the next two working days.

The government is also considering the option of convening a special session of the House in January for one or two days to pass the anti-graft legislation if it failed to pass the Bill by December 22. If the parties insist on moving a plethora of amendments it would be difficult to process the Bill in a single day.

The government is trying to fine-tune its strategy after the discussions with its allies at an all-party meeting. The PM has convened the allparty meeting on Wednesday to discuss the Bill and evolve consensus on the contentious issues. Senior Congress leader and chairman of the Lokpal standing committee Abhishek Singhvi will also be present at the meeting.

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The Congress core committee comprising the PM, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, defence minister A. K. Antony, home minister P. Chidambaram, political secretary to Sonia Ahmed Patel met on Tuesday to discuss the party strategy.

Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, DMK leader T. R. Baalu, National Congress chief Farooq Abdullah, IUML leader E. Ahamed and RJD's Ajit Singh, the newest ally of the government, attended the meeting called by the PM. Singhvi was also invited to the meet.

Sources said the allies assured the PM that they would stand by whatever decision the government took on the issue.

"Though we were for the inclusion of the PM under the Lokpal, we are on board no matter what decision the government takes," a senior DMK leader said.

Trinamool sources said the party would also back the government as they do not want Anna Hazare to take all the credit. The TMC is even more irked with Team Anna after Mamata Banerjee's bête noire CPM politburo member Brinda Karat shared the dais with Anna at Jantar Mantar on Sunday.

Courtesy: Mail Today

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