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Saturday, 12 November 2011

Sonia takes on Anna - Congress chief questions ‘noise’ over corruption

New Delhi, Sonia Gandhi, who could not attend her first public rally after surgery because of viral fever, has sent a message to Team Anna that it was free to do politics but it should also think about the nation.

This is the first time Sonia has questioned the activists’ intentions. In the past, she had restricted herself to vague homilies in her formal replies to Anna Hazare’s letters.

However, she said today: “Everybody can pursue his or her own political agenda but should also rise above personal interests to think about the nation.”

Congress leaders interpreted the statement as a signal that she was not averse to an antagonistic discourse with Team Anna.

Although a section of the party feels that Sonia’s decision to lock horns with Team Anna is fraught with risks as she will be asked uncomfortable questions, other feel that her stand matches an assessment in the government that its version of the Lokpal bill has found wider acceptance among experts than that of the activists.

Sonia had always hailed Anna and had chosen only to iterate her commitment to fight corruption in her past interactions but she understands the need to confront the anti-Congress propaganda launched by his group, a source said.

Sonia was more incisive and blunt on Lokpal, asking “why so much noise had been generated when the Prime Minister and the Congress are committed to a strong bill and the matter is in Parliament”.

The Congress president’s speech was read out by a party MP at a rally in Uttarakhand where she was supposed to lay the foundation of a railway project. Alive to the possibility of speculation about her health, Congress leaders said she was suffering from “a mild viral fever” and nothing more should be read into it.

Asserting that corruption cannot be fought by lofty rhetoric, Sonia said in her speech which was circulated in Delhi: “Pointing fingers at others will yield no result. We all should look within. We cannot presume that our corruption is good and others’ corruption is evil. This is what is happening today.”

While this observation is aimed at the “opportunistic” stand of the BJP on corruption, it is also an oblique reference to Team Anna’s analysis of charges levelled against its own members, Congress sources said.

Sonia defended her party’s record in fighting corruption. “Who brought the RTI? Who raised the issue of probity in public life and suggested measures to counter it? We have done it. I can say, I did it. Wherever I found any evidence of wrongdoing, I have acted without waiting for inquiry report.”

She recalled it was the National Advisory Council headed by her that initiated public consultations on a strong Lokpal.


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