‘Unfair to say Congress is reacting to AAP’s success’

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday asked “for the Opposition and all parties” to set aside their differences to pass the Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha.

“We are 99 per cent there,” he said. “If we get the support of political parties, we can pass this Bill.”

Flanked by Union Ministers P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and V. Narayanasamy and the party’s communication chief, Ajay Maken, Mr. Gandhi made his appeal at a special press conference here.

Mr. Gandhi denied that his party was trying to regain political ground by seeking to pass the Bill. He said it was “unfair” to say the party was reacting to the success of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi Assembly elections. “We have already brought the Right to Information Act, which is the single biggest weapon to fight corruption, and we brought it at a time we were doing well,” he argued.

A senior party leader told The Hindu that Mr. Gandhi’s press conference, his first since the Congress’s defeat in the Assembly elections in four States, marked his determination to “lead from the front on critical issues.”

The wording of Mr. Gandhi’s appeal seemed to suggest it was also directed at the Samajwadi Party, which stalled proceedings in the Rajya Sabha on Friday, saying that it instead wanted a discussion on rising prices.

The Samajwadi Party has also threatened to support a no-confidence motion against the government over Telangana if the Lokpal Bill is passed.

On Saturday, senior Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal told The Hindu: “The UPA government has lost the confidence of the people and it has no right to commend any legislation to Parliament.”

Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari had, sources in the Congress said, told House leaders that he could not allow the Lokpal Bill to be passed amid chaos. The support of both national parties, the sources said, would, however, leave the Samajwadi Party isolated.

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