NEWDELHI,DEC 29- India's government and ruling Congress party faced a key test to its proposed flagship anti-corruption law on Thursday, with the upper house
The legislation to create a new ombudsman tasked with investigating public officials was approved by the lower house of parliament on Tuesday, before being taken up by the upper housewhere the ruling party is weaker.
Congress has been lobbying furiously behind the scenes and is counting on independents, small regional parties and its unreliable parliamentary ally the Trinamool Congress in order to pass the legislation in the Rajya Sabha.
The 243-member upper house, also known as the Rajya Sabha, was set to vote on the draft bill on Thursday, possibly late in the night.
A defeat would be a heavy blow to the ailing fortunes of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose administration had to withdraw another major reform earlier this month over allowing foreign supermarkets to operate in India.
The anti-corruption law, known as the Lokpal Bill, has been one of the biggest political issues in India for months, the subject of a wrangle between the government, the opposition and civil society activists.
"Lokpal Bill will come for voting before Rajya Sabha," V. Narayanasamy, junior parliamentary affairs minister, told the NDTV news channel.
He conceded in an interview with the Times Now channel that "we need the support of other parties. We are making all efforts to see that the bill is passed."
Anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare captured the public's imagination in August when he staged a 12-day hunger strike to demand a strong bill to stamp out endemic corruption in Indian public life.
The Lokpal, or ombudsman, will have powers to investigate and prosecute public officials, but the debate has been over which state officials will come under his purview and his autonomy to pursue them.
Hazare channeled widespread anger over graft fed by a series of high-profile corruption scandals involving ministers in Singh's cabinet and senior figures in the Congress party.
His latest campaign demanding that the draft law passed on Tuesday be revised was called to a halt on Wednesday with the frail 74-year-old drawing small crowds amid concerns about his health.
Any amendment approved by the upper house or a defeat would send the legislation back to the lower house for reconsideration.
If the government feels the bill will likely face defeat, it can also withdraw it in advance.
Thursday is the last day of an extended session of parliament to pass the legislation, meaning any further consideration of the new law would have to take place next year.