M A I N   N E W S

Sonia talks tough on Lokpal, ready to take on Team Anna
Dispels perception of differences between govt, Congress
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, December 21
A day after the Union Cabinet cleared the Lokpal Bill, a combative Congress today publicly dispelled the perception that the party and the UPA government were not on the same page and instead charged the Opposition of trying to create an impression that there were differences between the two.

Hitting out at the the BJP-led NDA for not reconciling to its defeat in the last two Lok Sabha elections, Congress president Sonia Gandhi today exhorted party MPs to “fight the forces out to destabilise us.”

Describing the revised Lokpal Bill cleared by the Cabinet as strong and “path-breaking”, she said the Opposition and Team Anna should accept it. “The Government is ready to fight for the Bill and I am always ready for a fight,” PTI quoted her as saying to the media.

In a forceful speech at the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) meeting today, Sonia Gandhi trained her guns at the Opposition which, she said, was indulging in opportunism and had intensified its obstructionist tactics with the sole objective of derailing the UPA government’s legislative agenda.

She went out of her way to heap praise on the government for the steps it had taken to tackle the scourge of corruption and in implementing the promises made in the party manifesto.

Stating that deliberate and malicious misinformation was being spread against the ruling coalition, the Congress admitted that the party and the government had not been able to effectively communicate and propagate their accomplishments.

Referring to the chatter about party-government differences, Sonia Gandhi categorically stated, “Let me once and for all nail this. There may be differing points of view. But whatever is eventually done is done together.”

As regards the measures taken in tackling the menace of corruption, Sonia Gandhi said following the specific steps outlined by her at last year’s Burari session of the AICC, the government had brought in three Bills with major implications — those relating to the protection of whistleblowers, enhancing judicial accountability, strengthening anti-money laundering operation and controlling bribery of Indian public officials by foreign companies.

In addition, she said the Citizen’s Charter Bill was introduced yesterday while the Lokpal Bill is to be introduced and passed. This was the only reference she made to the Lokpal Bill but made no mention to Team Anna.

Meanwhile, the winter session of Parliament that was scheduled to end tomorrow has been extended by three days from December 27.

Detailing the government’s other accomplishments, Sonia Gandhi made a special reference to two recent government decisions which, she said, were of profound significance. The first, she said, was to ensure that at least Rs 7,000 crore of government procurement annually from businesses owned by Dalit and adivasi entrepreneurs. The second is the two packages of nearly Rs 6,000 crore for the welfare of lakhs of handloom weavers.

About the Assembly elections, Sonia Gandhi said there is a definite sentiment in favour of the party in both Uttarakhand and Punjab. She admitted the Congress faces heavy odds in UP Pradesh and though there is growing support for the Congress, the real challenge there is to convert that support into votes.





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