Congress president and National Advisory Council chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday assured noted social activist Anna Hazare that she does not support nor encourages “politics of smear campaigns”. She also told him that he should have no doubt of her commitment to the fight for probity in public life.
She was responding to Mr Hazare’s complaint against statements made by some Congress officials and ministers in the last few days. Bringing such statements to her notice through a letter on April 18, the Gandhian leader had said, “We had apprehended such mischievous conduct and that is the reason we have been demanding video recordings of the proceedings (of the Lokpal Bill joint drafting committee meetings) and their release immediately after each meeting”.
Replying to Mr Hazare’s letter, Mrs Gandhi said, “As for statements appearing in the media, let met assure you that I do not support nor encourage the politics of smear campaigns.” She added, “I strongly support the institution of a Lokpal that is consistent with the practices and conventions of our parliamentary democracy. Let me reiterate what I wrote to you earlier, that I believe there is an urgent necessity to combat graft and corruption.”
While pointing out that the Lokpal Bill was very much part of the agenda of the NAC, she said, “As you know the NAC working group on transparency, accountability and governance, under the convenorship of Ms Aruna Roy, held consultations on this subject on April 4 with several representatives of civil society, including Shanti Bhushan, Santosh Hedge and Prashant Bhushan who are now on the joint committee, as well as Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal, who have been closely associated with you.”
The working group had decided to hold further consultations and evolve broad principles for discussion and approval in the next NAC meeting scheduled for April 28. She quoted Mr Hazare’s letter of April 8 to the NAC. In that letter Mr Hazare had said, “I wish to bring to your (NAC chief’s) notice that the sub-committee of your NAC has agreed with the broad content of the Jan Lokpal Bill, barring two issues, after extensive discussions on April 4 with various knowledgeable sections of society. May I request you to kindly get the draft discussed at a full meeting of the NAC at the earliest and recommend the outcome to the government.”
“This is the very course that the NAC was following until the process was, as you know, overtaken by subsequent (events),” Mrs Gandhi said. In his letter to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on April 18 , Mr Hazare had said, “One of the general secretaries of the Congress party has been making many statements in the press in the last one week. I assume that he has the support of the party to make such remarks. Most of these statements are factually wrong, which makes one believe whether his only intention is to create confusion, mislead people and derail the ongoing discussions in the joint committee. Do you personally approve of his statements?”
After the joint committee meeting, one of the ministers had held a private “informal debriefing session” with the media and “falsely accused us of having succumbed to the government’s pressure within the committee. His informal debriefing created confusion in the minds of people across the country,” Anna Hazare had said. Asian Age