Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lokpal Bill tabled in Lok Sabha, govt brings back minority quota (Indian Express)

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Under attack from RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav and other parties, the government today decided to bring back reservation for minorities in the Lokpal Bill before tabling it in the Lok Sabha at 3.30 pm as soon as it convened after two adjournments.



The decision to include candidates from minorities in the Lokpal Bench and in the Search Committee came at a meeting of the Congress Core Group chaired by party president Sonia Gandhi and attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other senior ministers.
The Core Group meeting came after Prasad raked up the issue as soon as Parliament convened in the morning. He accused the Congress and BJP-RSS combine of having conspired to exclude minorities after having originally provided for it.

Several other small parties, including SP, AIMMM and LJP also supported the demand for inclusion of minorities.
The Lok Sabha was adjourned following an uproar and the interregnum was used by the Congress and the government in restoring the provision.
Congress sources said the provision for minorities was dropped last night after a BJP delegation led by L K Advani told Leader of Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee that the provision could encounter legal problems because the Constitution does not provide for quota for minorities.
Lalu had alleged in Lok Sabha: “The Congress and RSS-BJP are hand in glove. That is why there has been a delay in circulating the Bill. We will not accept it. It is incomplete. Amend it and then introduce the Bill.”
While reading out contents of the Bill which was circulated among MPs, Prasad accused the government of being scared of the BJP.
Speaker Meira Kumar objected to his reading out from the Bill, pointing out that it was yet to be introduced.
As he was protesting against the government's move, Prasad was joined by members of SP, BSP and AIMIM in creating an uproar. Two SP members also moved into the Well but returned to their seats after the Speaker asked them to go back.
The RJD leader said there was a “conspiracy” to keep Muslims out of the measure “on the pretext of printing (mistake). We verified it.”
He was referring to a provision in the Bill which provides for 50 per cent quota for SCs, STs, OBCs and women. Initially, the revised Bill had the mention of minorities but it was later reportedly deleted.
Though the withdrawal of the original Lokpal Bill was part of today's business in the House, tabling of the new legislation was not mentioned.
The RJD chief also took objection to the contents of the new legislation appearing on TV channels even before it was circulated among MPs. “This is a matter of privilege of the House,” he said.
Earlier, after papers were laid, the Speaker called Arjun Ram Meghwal (BJP) to speak on the Constitution Amendment Bill to make the right to form cooperatives a fundamental right.
As the papers were being laid, Lok Sabha Secretariat staff were seen circulating the Lokpal Bill among members.
When Meghwal spoke, Prasad rose and insisted he be allowed to speak first on the Lokpal issue contending that the discussion on the Bill would continue for another two hours.
He got support from SP members, including Shailendra Kumar, who trooped to the Well insisting that the Speaker defer the discussion on the Cooperative Bill. Prasad also came into the Well and BSP members joined him, some of them shouting slogans protesting the exclusion of minorities.
Prasad was seen showing some portions of the Lokpal Bill to UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and seen pressing on some issue.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal walked up to Prasad and tried to pacify him, but the move backfired as the RJD chief got more agitated.

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