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India’s upper house fails to vote on anti-corruption bill

India’s upper house fails to vote on anti-corruption bill

India’s upper house of parliament ended an extended session Thursday amid uproar without voting on a bill to curb corruption.

The bill, passed by the lower house on Tuesday, was taken up for discussion and a vote in the upper house on Thursday. However, after a debate that stretched until midnight, the vote failed to take place.

Thursday was the final day of the winter session of Parliament. The measure, so-called Lokpal, will be put on hold until Parliament reconvenes in February.

The leader of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in the upper house, Arun Jaitley, accused the government of scripting the disturbances as it realized it was unable to win a vote.

“The government is running away from the house because it is in a hopeless minority,” Jaitley said.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said more time was needed to consider 187 amendments to the bill that had been tabled by both opposition parties and allies of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Proposals for a corruption ombudsman have been introduced to parliament nine times since 1968 without ever being passed.

Thousands took to the streets in the summer, forcing the prime minister to bow to demands to create a powerful ombudsman’s post.  Activist Anna Hazare has been embarking on hunger strikes this year, but he called off a three-day hunger strike on Wednesday because of health concerns.

Opposition to the Lokpal bill centered on two main criticisms: the lack of direct control over the country’s leading criminal investigation agency that parties said robbed the legislation of powers to punish the corrupt; and that it infringed on the rights of states by forcing them to mold local graft-fighting agencies to the federal law.

The ombudsman Singh’s government wanted to create would have been able to scrutinize the prime minister except over issues of national security. It wouldn’t have had direct oversight of junior bureaucrats responsible for everyday acts of petty corruption that blight business and governance.