Cabinet to decide on Lokpal, extension of winter session today
There are speculations that the Parliament may extend the winter session from December 27-29
With the government and the Opposition still divided over the Lokpal, the latest reports are that there is a possibility that Parliament may extend the winter session from 27-29 December if the bill isn't passed by 22 December. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee met senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley to discuss the possibility of a extended session as well as the tweaked Lokpal draft.
The inclusion of the Prime Minister under the Lokpal and turning the CBI into Lokpal's investigative wing are the two issues which has been the major cause of disagreement between the government and the opposition.
Some media reports have indicated that the government is willing to include the prime minister under the ambit of the Lokpal with some riders. Decisions taken by the Prime Minister's Office, for example, will be kept out of the Lokpal's purview.
The tweaked draft also suggests that the Leader of Opposition will have a say in selecting the CBI director.
While there has been no official word on the meeting, Mukherjee is said to have sought the BJP's cooperation in ensuring the passage of several key bills in the current session, including the contentious Lokpal legislation, Food Security Bill, Pensions Bill and Companies Bill.
A decision on extending the parliament session will be taken at the Cabinet meeting later in the evening when it discusses the Lokpal draft.
The bill is being given its finishing touches by a crack team of Congress members comprising Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P Chidambaram, Law Minister Salman Khurshid and minister of state in the PMO V Narayanaswamy. The team is discussing the bill one clause at a time. It is also responsible for bringing in necessary amendments to the government's draft of the bill to ensure that there is broad consensus on the issue between the ruling UPA and Opposition led by the BJP and the Left.
The cabinet met on Sunday evening and saw some deliberations on the bill, but a detailed note and formal discussions are only expected to take place this evening. The bill will also see incorporation of recommendations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee that examined it.
Anna Hazare has threatened to go on a hunger strike from December 27 if the lokpal is not passed. He has been demanding that the CBI be under the Lokpal, serving as an investigative agency. The government meanwhile has been averse to this move and is instead contemplating a provision for creating an independent "Directorate of Prosecution", carving it out of the CBI.
Meanwhile, Anna Hazare has cut short his campaign for a strong Lokpal in south India and has returned back to Ralegaon Siddhi to chalk out an action plan if the bill isn't passed in this session of the parliament. He was supposed to speak in Hyderabad today.
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