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Farce At Midnight

It could have been foretold by anyone by late afternoon. The UPA was not only in a hopeless minority, under most severe opposition from its own constituent, Trinamool Congress, but had no intention of putting the bill to vote.

The buzz had been that a bitter exchange could be engineered in the house to disrupt the proceedings of the house.

Through the evening, TV Channel CNN-IBN kept mentioning the possibility of a "bitter exchange" to disrupt the house that could take the proceedings to midnight.

It even mentioned Rajniti Singh by name.

Political analyst Yogendra Yadav called it the worst form of match-fixing. He called the UPA tactics as trying to be too clever by half but hoped that it would not come to this sorry pass and this particular drama would not be enacted because it had been announced on national television.

But clearly, there was desperation in the ruling camp, and the claim seemed to be confirmed when Rajneeti Singh proceeded to tear up the bill in Rajya Sabha, and as the video clip shows, the minister concerned did not seem to be even making a half-hearted attempt to stop him.. 

There was so much confusion and the ruling UPA's strategy so much in flux, as another anchor on the same channel tweeted, even on persistent questioning, intriguingly, even the chairman of the Rajya Sabha himself did not seem to know whether the House would go on post midnight or not.

The opposition said it was willing to sit through the night, but the Congress-led UPA claimed almost on the stroke of the midnight hour that it needed more time to consider the proposed amendments, and the house was then adjourned sine die without the bill being put to vote.

Some of the reactions on Twitter:

SHORT TAKES
01 Jan 2012, 08:51:43 PM | Buzz

Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar in the TOI:

He [Anna Hazare] soared to fame not because of himself but because he represented a Big Idea. He rode the tide of massive pent-up public anger against corruption in all political parties, not the Congress alone. Hazare could harness this anger because he was seen as a Gandhian not affiliated to any party. But by shifting, first in the Hissar by-election and now in the coming state elections, to a firm anti-Congress stance, he is beginning to look like a political player rather than moral referee. In UP, campaigning against Congress will, by implication, mean campaigning for the highly corrupt government of Mayawati . What a fall for a Gandhian!

He will not lose all his clout just because of one poor Mumbai rally. He may once again attract large crowds if politicians are seen to be jointly killing the Lokpal Bill. But his moral stature has been diminished. The biggest loser may be the public. With much less to fear from Anna, politicians may conspire to create a toothless Lokpal , or kill the Bill in Parliament altogether. Public anger needs to stay on the boil to prevent the Lokpal from going the Bofors way.

31 Dec 2011, 12:07:23 PM | Buzz

Shekhar Gupta in the Indian Express:

One of its bills getting defeated is not nice for any government. But people would have understood it, if it wasn’t accompanied by such bad grace. A simple explanation, that the government did not have the numbers and needed more time to convince allies and the opposition, so could it please, please, bring it back in the budget session, would have worked better. Much better than the self-righteous, self-serving rubbish that was dished out at midnight. There are 187 amendments, we were told, time is needed to reconcile them, so we will assemble at some point later, and when that will be, is our “prerogative” to decide. Just how arrogant can you be in retreat, and how suicidal. Pranab Mukherjee had explained the suspension of FDI so much better with the honest confession that he did not have the numbers and there was no point inflicting a mid-term poll on the nation because of this. A little tact, a little humility, just a bit of sincere honesty — and not at midnight but earlier in the evening — would have given an entirely different sort of closure to the evening. In these times of televised, in-your-face political discourse, nothing fails you more disastrously than a cocktail of sophistry, self-righteousness and half-lies, and particularly so when it is laced with such touching arrogance. Prerogative? That word will keep coming back to haunt the Congress...

And the BJP, well, they continue to behave like a party that does not believe it will ever come to power. Its conduct in this session, as also its cynical bid to hijack the Lokpal agenda for the upcoming state elections, are of a piece with that. At the end of 2011, a terrible year in so many ways, the bad news is not just that our politics is broken, but that it promises to get worse in 2012.

31 Dec 2011, 10:48:10 AM | Buzz

The Deccan Chronicle editorialises:

...the story may have been different if it weren’t for the truculence of UPA partner Trinamul Congress, which played the role of an Opposition party, denying the government even an outside chance of success in the event of a vote... The Congress only has an apparent point when it says it was ready for a vote on the bill as passed in the Lok Sabha, but the government needed more time for a vote if any sense had to be made of the 187 amendments — some of them mutually contradictory — that were moved by its opponents. On closer examination this appears to be a too-clever-by-half sophist’s argument. The political reality is that if the UPA partners had stuck together, the government could have exercised greater manoeuvrability in relation to the non-NDA parties and groups, and might have produced a majority. It could then have afforded to reject the Opposition amendments and passed the Lokpal legislation.

31 Dec 2011, 10:05:06 AM | Buzz

The Hindu editorialises:

Suffice it to note that the legislation that made it through the Lok Sabha is fundamentally flawed. It was heartening to see that public opinion, however sceptical, displayed reasonableness and democratic spirit in giving the elected representatives of the people every chance to get the Lokpal Bill right; that might help explain, at least in part, why the Anna Hazare-led movement failed to evoke an enthusiastic popular response in this round.

One does not have to agree with every demand made by Team Anna to recognise that the thrust of its anti-corruption campaign is sound and radical, given the Indian context. And whatever one thinks of the political agenda of the Opposition players, it must be recognised that they did well, in the parliamentary debates, to highlight three vital respects in which the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011 fell unacceptably short

31 Dec 2011, 09:59:01 AM | Buzz

The Indian Express editorialises:

The buck must begin and come round to stop with the UPA government. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal defended his not taking up the amendments by claiming there were too many of them, which needed time to be studied. Why did Bansal wait for the proverbial eleventh hour to say so? If that is indeed what the UPA had in mind, could it not have come clean and told the House, simply and honestly, that it needed more time and therefore would prefer the bill taken up in due course, later? The Congress could have sought time beforehand and begun talking to its allies.

30 Dec 2011, 10:56:54 PM | Buzz

Vir Sanghvi in HT blogs:

the Congress couldn’t even get its own MPs together in the Lok Sabha, leading to the failure of the Constitutional Amendment. In the Rajya Sabha, it completely failed to anticipate Mamata Banerjee’s objections or to make the necessary deals with friendly parties. Worse still, it went into the House believing that it could still win the vote.

When the hollowness of its confidence was exposed, it behaved with an utter and complete lack of grace. There is no shame in losing a vote. Yes, it shows incompetence on your part to have strutted into the House without getting your support together. But a defeat in the Rajya Sabha is not a resignation issue or one that has long-term consequences.

30 Dec 2011, 03:24:03 AM | Buzz

Paul Beckett in the WSJ:

If a government repeatedly can’t introduce key new measures because its own allies reject them, then it probably is not a government that is fit to govern. Nor is its leadership fit to lead. This may be starting to dawn on Congress party leaders and the only answer may be to go back to the voters with a midterm poll to reset the dynamics of a broken coalition or to make way for someone else. It would be an ignominious end to a dreadful second term — and disastrous for what little is left of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s reputation — but the alternative appears to be not one wasted year but four...

For those who wanted the government to step up and take charge, they have seen instead the United Progressive Alliance fall to new lows of mismanagement, disorganization and ineffectiveness.

30 Dec 2011, 05:55:30 AM | Buzz

Express News Service in the Indian Express:

What started with embarrassment for the government over the defeat of its Constitutional amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday ended today with its failure to get the Lokpal Bill passed in the Upper House and its very obvious attempt to avoid a vote...

Government managers, who had claimed a comfortable majority until yesterday, were struggling this evening to get the numbers by reviving fresh talks with allies, supporting parties and individual MPs. The decision to let the House be adjourned without a vote — if these talks failed — was taken at about 5 pm when the Congress core group headed by Sonia Gandhi and including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met.

It was clear that the government had no option but to defer the Bill just about an hour before the midnight deadline for the House to end when Minister of State for Personnel and Training V Narayansamy began his reply to the marathon 12-hour debate. 

30 Dec 2011, 05:52:23 AM | Buzz

Hamara Congress's Sanjay K. Jha in the Telegraph:

Strategies changed every hour and deals were struck and reworked as the verbal duel continued in the televised show from inside the House.

Key players of the government, Salman Khurshid, Pawan Bansal, Kapil Sibal, V. Narayanasamy, P. Chidambaram, A.K. Antony and Ahmed Patel, kept streaming in and out of Mukherjee’s room through the day. The leaders of the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, too, were brought in...

Government sources admitted defeat of the bill was not a major concern but the passage of the amendments indeed was. The possibility of the government itself adopting the amendments sought by Trinamul was also being talked about emphatically.

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