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Saturday, 20 August 2011

UPA to unleash NCP on Anna Hazare

The new mantra of the Congress: forget the past (to UPA allies) and bail us out. The party now wants NCP chief Sharad Pawar to tackle Anna Hazare.

Not long ago, when Team Anna had objected to Pawar’s presence in the core committee for drafting of the Jan Lokpal Bill on charges of corruption, he had resigned and walked out. The Congress had remained non-committal then and party leaders had said they had nothing to say about it.

On Friday evening NCP sources told DNA that Congress leaders spoke to Pawar and have requested him to take on Anna in his home state, Maharashtra, and try to contain the agitation. This, Congress sources said, would be part of a multi-pronged strategy to regain lost ground and make up for earlier blunders.

The NCP has a track record of countering Anna’s public agitations. The Justice PB Sawant Committee that had drawn adverse conclusions against Anna had its origins in the issues raised by NCP leader Suresh Jain. With the home department under the NCP in Maharashtra, the party could go public with the ‘profile’ of the anti-corruption protest over the course of the next few days.

Pawar, sources said, told prime minister Manmohan Singh that the government had goofed up by not including a leader of the opposition besides a Left party representative in the joint drafting committee.

Pawar argued that doing so would have blunted Team Anna’s agitation and brought the entire political class together. Adopting such a strategy would have also ensured that the tacit support given by the main opposition, the BJP, to the agitation would have been nullified.

The Congress leadership went into a huddle on Friday evening to sharpen its strategy after Pawar’s counsel.

Party sources told DNA that there was a possibility that the Parliamentary standing committee examining the bill may accommodate a few more demands to pacify Team Anna.

However, the party was in agreement with the government that such a compromise would not include their current position on keeping the judiciary and the PM out of Lokpal’s ambit.

However, the principal opposition party, the BJP is adamant that the PM must be placed under the Lokpal.

Meanwhile, there was acceptance in the Congress that it had committed huge blunders in dealing with the Anna issue. East Delhi Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit openly criticised the decision to detain Anna. Union home minister P Chidambaram conceded that the mechanism of the joint drafting committee may not have been such a good idea after all during the recent debate in Parliament.

The UPA government’s fresh strategy to “wait and watch” came after it received intelligence estimates that the agitation would die its own death within a few weeks.

They feel that with credible reports of “lumpen elements” taking over the movement, eve-teasing and stopping buses for free rides coming in, the enthusiasm of the surging crowds at Ramlila Maidan may soon dissipate. Many people DNA spoke to at the Maidan said that they were “unhappy with goonda-elements creeping in”.

“This is the ugly side of this so called mass movement and if this continues then very soon it will lose steam. Let us see for how long students will skip schools and office goers miss office. It will collapse on its own as no agitation can survive beyond a point,” a Congress Party office bearer told DNA.

But the Jan Lokpal Bill found support from BJP MP Varun Gandhi who said he wanted to table a private member’s bill that would reflect Team Anna’s version. Gandhi, it was learnt, tried to convince Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to allow him to table the Bill on Friday but was asked to wait.

“Being the youngest member of Parliament I introspected a lot and found that at some point of time I don’t want to remain quiet. I wanted to raise my voice and, therefore, I decided to introduce the Jan Lokpal Bill as a private member’s Bill. I know my voice is a solitary one. But so was that of Mahatma Gandhi’s and Anna when they began. The nation has joined them,” the BJP Gandhi said.


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