Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is taking a “personal interest” in the passage of the Lokpal Bill, and is in touch with the Union Ministries of Parliamentary affairs and personnel, public grievances and pensions — the latter being the nodal ministry for the proposed anti-graft legislation — party communication chief Ajay Maken said on Tuesday.
If Mr. Maken underscored Mr. Gandhi’s commitment to the Lokpal Bill, at the official briefing, too, party spokesperson P.C. Chacko attributed the fast-forwarding of the anti-graft legislation to Mr. Gandhi’s “single-minded” determination, earning praise even from anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare.
“It is due to the single-minded determination of Mr. Gandhi... [his] earnest attempts [that] we could prevail over all the parties,” Mr. Chacko said, adding, “and the Lokpal Bill will be passed soon. It has become a reality because Rahul Gandhi took the initiative.”
He, however, also stressed that he was not denying credit for the passage of the bill to Mr. Hazare. “Mr. Gandhi had also acknowledged the Gandhian’s role on the Lokpal issue. The whole country knows Anna Hazare’s valued contribution... Mr. Gandhi has talked to all parties… whoever takes the initiative has to be given credit,” Mr. Chacko said.
To a question on the reason for the new-found bonhomie between Mr. Hazare and Mr. Gandhi, the Congress spokesperson said all those who speak the truth are on the same side.
All this came on a day when the Congress released copies of two letters: one Mr. azare to Mr. Gandhi, praising him for his “commitment” to the Lokpal Bill, and the latter responding, thanking him for his support for the government’s Lokpal Bill.
Shot in the arm
The endorsement from Mr. Hazare has come as a shot in the arm for the Congress, party sources said, as it was the Gandhian’s fast in Ramlila Maidan that had set forth a chain of events that has led to the present Bill. This is especially so, these sources added, as Mr. Hazare is no longer insisting on the Janlokpal Bill as the Aam Aadmi Party continues to do. The release of the exchange of letters — both in Hindi — comes 72 hours after Mr. Gandhi, accompanied by Union Ministers P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, V. Narayansamy and Mr. Maken, had sought the cooperation of opposition parties in the passage of the Lokpal Bill.
On Tuesday, the Rajya Sabha cleared the Bill; it is now due to come before the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
Mr. Hazare wrote to Mr. Gandhi on December 15, welcoming the latter’s “commitment” to the Lokpal Bill, while urging him to ensure that the amendments suggested by the Rajya Sabha Select Committee should be incorporated in it, as they were unanimously agreed on. He also wrote that if in the house, any other amendments that could strengthen the anti-graft bill came up and were included, that would be in the interests of the aam aadmi.
Mr. Gandhi, on his part, wrote back on December 16, saying he was much encouraged by Mr. Hazare’s letter. He said the Congress was committed to enacting for the people of the country as strong a Lokpal Bill as possible, even as he expressed his gratitude to Mr. Hazare for his support, and respect for the key role he had played.