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All-party meeting called on Lokpal as Hazare targets Congress

Saturday December 10, 2011 11:08:08 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: With Team Anna signalling another confrontation on the Lokpal bill and threatening to campaign against the Congress in the forthcoming assembly polls, the government convened an all-party meeting Wednesday on the long-debated legislation that is slated to be taken up for passage in parliament's winter session.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the all-party meeting at his official 7, Race Course Road residence Wednesday to attempt a consensus on the bill, official sources said.

They said interaction with other political parties will be preceded by meetings of cabinet and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) leaders Tuesday.

Ahead of his day-long fast to press for a strong Lokpal bill, Anna Hazare Saturday mounted an attack on the government saying that the Parliamentary Standing Committee looking into the draft legislation had "cheated" the country and he would campaign against the Congress in the next year's assembly polls and the next Lok Sabha elections.

Hazare's criticism of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi for "weak" standing committee report invited rebuttal from Law Minister Salman Khurshid, who said Gandhi had pushed for a strong bill. Standing committee chairman Abhishek Manu Singhvi also slammed Team Anna for "practising extreme form of intolerance".

Hazare told reporters he suspected Rahul Gandhi to be behind the standing committee rejecting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's "assurance" to include in the bill the citizen's charter, lower bureaucracy and establishment of Lokayuktas in the states.

"It is cheating with the entire country... Is it a government or grocery shop? The prime minister had given a letter that these three issues would be brought under the Lokpal bill... The prime minister's letter was thrown into the dustbin. Why this politics?"

"There is somebody behind...We suspect Rahul Gandhi could be behind this... As without him this is not possible. That is why there are these problems," Hazare said.

At one point, Hazare also said Team Anna will work with Gandhi in the future.

"Rahul Gandhi has to take a decision (on Lokpal) considering everyone's stand on this issue. We will work with him in the future and I believe in the youth of this country," said Hazare in response to a question.

"Many people believe that he will become the prime minister soon but if he doesn't change his current views on this issue, it would be dangerous for the country," Hazare added.

Asked if United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi was also responsible, Hazare said she was not well.

"She is not well. Her condition may deteriorate if we say anything," he said.

Hazare, who will hold a day-log fast at Jantar Mantar Sunday, said he will resume his anti-corruption agitation from Dec 27 and campaign till the Lok Sabha elections.

He said his team will also go to states due for assembly polls next year and make people aware of Jan Lokpal bill and the stance of Congress.

Even as Hazare attacked the Congress leaders and declared that his team will campaign against the party, his team member Prashant Bhushan said they will wait for the outcome of the bill in parliament before deciding their next course. The parliament session will conclude Dec 22 and the government is expected to list Lokpal for discussion Dec 19.

Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal said committee had kept the Central Bureau of Investigation and group C and D officials out of Lokpal and its report was in some respects even "weaker" than the earlier government draft bill.

Meanwhile, Khurshid defended Gandhi, saying it was party general secretary who had asked him to bring a strong Lokpal.

"Rahul Gandhi told me only one thing and that is to bring a strong and effective Lokpal bill, on which the country should be proud of...if this is what you call is weakening it, then I don't know what strong (Lokpal) is," Khurshid said.

Singhvi also slammed Team Anna: "None of this is surprising. As usual and true to form, Team Anna is practising an extreme form of intolerance, namely those who do not agree 100 percent with their view must be condemned with personal attack and vilification."

He said it was a "negation of democracy" and "most unfortunate and regrettable".

Team Anna said that Bhartiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley, Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Brinda Karat and leaders from several other parties will be among those who will visit the fast site at Jantar Mantar to discuss Lokpal bill. They said that they had also invited the Congress but it had conveyed it will not be attending.







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