Lokpal Bill Clears Final Hurdle with Lok Sabha Nod Amid SP, Shiv Sena Walkout
By Express News Service | Published: 19th December 2013 07:46 AM |
Over two years after social activist Anna Hazare, aided by relatively unknown RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal protested in Delhi demanding a strict anti-corruption law in what was billed as India’s version of Arab Spring, the legislation cleared its final hurdle on way to becoming a legal reality. The Lok Sabha passed the Lokpal Bill on Wednesday with a voice vote. Hazare who was fasting for the sixth time since April 2011 for an anti-corruption ombudsman broke his fast-unto-death after the bill was passed.
Jolted by Kejriwal’s emergence as a potent political force and another round of fast-unto-death by Hazare, political parties displayed rare unity in passing the Bill, which had been passed by the Rajya Sabha a day earlier. As opposed to the high-pitched debates on the Lokpal Bill in the House on earlier occasions, the climax was rather subdued. In Lok Sabha, both the Congress and the BJP came together to support the Bill but were eager to claim credit for it.
While Congress Vice-President (VP) and prospective PM candidate Rahul Gandhi showed aggressiveness in getting the Bill passed, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, while supporting the Bill, accused Congress of trying to tout the Bill as its VP’s achievement and instead credited Hazare. Swaraj, in her brief speech, said the BJP had fought for the Bill and wanted a strong legislation. “Our party had opposed the earlier Lokpal Bill as it was a weak legislation but I am happy that Rajya Sabha, where the opposition is in majority, had amended it suitably.”
In his second Parliament speech in UPA’s current tenure, Rahul, who is tipped to be announced as the Congress PM candidate soon, sought the extension of the Winter session to pass six more Bills for “comprehensive anti-corruption framework”. “Lokpal Bill alone is not enough to fight corruption. What we need is a comprehensive anti-corruption code... We should complete the unfinished work of fighting corruption,” Rahul said.
Once the Bill was passed, the focus shifted to Ralegan Siddhi where Hazare was fasting. The 75-year-old activist broke his fast-unto-death on the ninth day with a glass of coconut water offered to him by school children. “I thank the members of the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, with the exception of Samajwadi Party, for passing an effective law against corruption,” Hazare said.
Voicing their opposition to the Bill, members of the Samajwadi Party and the Shiv Sena staged a walkout during the debate, which was also marred by protests of Andhra MPs.