TODAY -

Lokpal Bill: Blow for Centre as state govts tow party line
Source: Hueiyen News Service / Agency

Imphal, June 13 2011: The Centre's strategy to push its line on contentious issues relating to the Lokpal Bill has suffered a jolt.

Different state governments and political parties have responded to a questionnaire sent to them on the Bill in a predicted manner - the Congress-ruled states have, by and large, replied they they would abide by whatever line the party high command or the Union government takes on every aspect of the Bill, while the non-Congress ruled states have withheld opinion on the matter.

Arguably then, the five minister-members of the joint drafting panel, headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, will not have much to show off, although the government had pinned high hopes on the responses to the missive to counter Team Anna's arguments.

The panel is slated to meet on Wednesday.

The questionnaire dealt with controversial issues such as bringing the PM and higher judiciary within the ambit of the Lokpal.

The government also wanted to know whether the states and parties favoured that the conduct of MPs inside Parliament should be covered by the proposed anti-corruption ombudsman.

The Congress-ruled states' progovernment view is in stark contrast to the Centre's assertion that the states would take an "independent" view on the legislation.

Arunachal Pradesh CM Jarbom Gamlin wrote back to Mukherjee: "The Congress government of Arunachal Pradesh, being an extension of the Congress-led government at the Centre, holds the same view on the matter and extends its unequivocal support to any decision that the party high command will take" .

Goa CM Digambar Kamat responded in a similar manner, reposing faith in the "approach adopted and decision taken by the central leadership of the Congress".

His Delhi counterpart Sheila Dikshit, while pledging to abide by the outcome of the Centre's views, categorically ruled against including the PM, higher judiciary and the MPs under the purview of the Lokpal.

Haryana, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, Rajasthan and Mizoram - states ruled by the Congress - had the same things to say.

The reply of Mizoram CM Lal Thanhawla, however, makes for an interesting case of unflinching loyalty to the party high command.

"I would like to inform you that, as the government of Mizoram is a Congress government, having its headquarters in Delhi, the unit of the party in the state cannot have a view or policy different from that of its national-level party….

I fully support the stand taken by the party high command on the issue," Thanhawla wrote.

On the other hand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Orissa and Tripura - states ruled by non-Congress parties - argued that sending a selective questionnaire on a crucial issue such as the Lokpal was premature.

These states said the right time to respond would be when the Centre was ready with its draft of the Bill.

"In my view, without looking into the contents of the final draft Bill, it will be inappropriate to express any opinion.

The stage to seek views of the states would arrive only when the draft Bill is made available to the states.

I think any comment from my end at this stage would be premature and not in consonance with the spirit of the Constitution," Bihar CM Nitish Kumar said.

Parties such as the BJP, CPI, CPM, BSP, SP and BJD also described the Centre's step as premature.

UP CM and BSP chief Mayawati, while pressing for the need for a Lokpal legislation, hit out at the Centre.

"Since no representative from my party participated in the process to formulate the Bill, it'll be difficult for me to provide meaningful opinion on the points raised by you," she said.


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