Lokpal: Govt scrambles for numbers in RS

New Delhi: With no majority on its own in the Rajya Sabha, Government today scrambled for numbers to get the Lokpal Bill passed to avoid an embarrassment it faced in the Lok Sabha over the defeat of Constitution Amendment Bill.

As the Bill is likely to be tabled in the Upper House with clearance given by President Pratibha Patil from Hyderabad this morning, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee met Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley in a bid to seek the BJP`s support for the measure.

The Lokpal Bill will be tabled in Rajya Sabha today, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla told reporters.

In a house of 243, the ruling UPA has the clear support of 101 members and needs at least another 21 members to ensure a simple majority for the bill.

Even though the concerns of allies and opponents on the original bill impinging on the states` rights in relation to setting up of Lokayuktas, still the Congress has apprehensions over what the opposition parties like the BJP, Left parties, BJD and AIADMK will take in the Upper House.

The role of 27 MPs belonging to BSP, SP and RJD, which support the government from outside, becomes crucial because they walked out of the Lok Sabha yesterday before voting.

Their absence led to the defeat of Constitution Amendment Bill.

In case they absent from Rajya Sabha, the total numbers and the majority required would also come down but they are the numbers the government is banking upon. The numbers required for simple majority in such a case may come down to 108.

Meanwhile, Congress president blamed the BJP for the defeat of Constitution Amendment Bill on Lokpal, saying it exposed its "real face".

Gandhi said the BJP had actually committed itself to supporting Constitutional status to Lokpal in the Standing Committee deliberations.

"But yesterday, we saw their real face. The strength we wanted to give to Lokpal Bill, they did not want it and voted against it," Gandhi told reporters here.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal expressed hope that it will be able to introduce the Lokpal Bill in Rajya Sabha this afternoon.

He said, "One thing is certain, it cannot be taken up unless Rajya Sabha decides to sit late like we did in Lok Sabha. Then only perhaps it could be passed today. Otherwise it will be passed tomorrow, but it will be taken up for consideration today."

Earlier, Union Minister V Narayanasamy said the Lokpal Bill is unlikely to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha today.