Attempts by India’s ruling Congress party, defeated in the Delhi state election on an anti-corruption campaign, to push through a stringent law against graft has been stalled by one of its powerful allies.
The Congress on Friday moved the anti-corruption ombudsman (Lokpal) bill in the Rajya Sabha (upper house of the Indian parliament), but the Samajwadi Party blocked the bill from being discussed. The House has now been adjourned until Monday.
The Congress-led federal government has been under pressure after the electoral loss and the continuing indefinite hunger strike by anti-corruption icon Anna Hazare.
The Lokpal bill was cleared by the Lok Sabha in December 2011, and is yet to be approved by the Rajya Sabha which is necessary for its enactment as law.
In the meantime, a select bipartisan committee of members of parliament studied the Lokpal bill and made several recommendations to tighten the legislation.
Among these is a proposal to make the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) more independent of the government. The committee also recommended that ministers or any high official who is targeted by the Lokpal should not be warned before a raid.
The Congress has hesitated to back the recommendations. But, given the anti-corruption mood in the country symbolised by the dream victory of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, the Congress may do a rethink on its stand.
The opposition BJP and the Left parties in parliament have asked the government to incorporate the committee’s recommendations in full to get their support when moving the bill in the Rajya Sabha.
Meanwhile, Hazare at his indefinite fast demanding enacting the anti-corruption law vowed to continue until the government passed the Lokpal bill. In what he- calls a “do or die” hunger strike, Hazare said he would resist attempts to force-feed him.
Hazare was the mastermind behind the anti-corruption movement that took India by storm in 2011. The debutant Aam Aadmi Party which performed spectacularly on an anti-corruption plank in Delhi was a spinoff from Hazare’s movement.