The Congress went on the offensive on Wednesday, hitting back at the BJP, saying it required no lessons about tackling corruption from a party which, while in power at the Centre, had seen “Ministers involved in making money from acquiring coffins for martyrs.”

Responding to questions on the party's silence on the issue of corruption at Tuesday's AICC meeting, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari stressed repeatedly that Congress president Sonia Gandhi had sent a “clear message” to party activists to follow the principles of “patience, simplicity and faith.”

“The Congress president has given a clear message to AICC delegates, and through them, to the Congress workers,” he said, “on how she expects them to perform their duties.” Reacting to the BJP's astringent remarks on Ms. Gandhi's speech, Mr. Tewari said, “the BJP has to introspect first. Will these people who made money from coffins teach us?”

The BJP, he alleged, was a party of “coffin-stealers, Bangaru Laxman's descendants and people who had played hosts to terrorists.”

The references were to the allegations of sub-standard coffins purchased for the Kargil martyrs during NDA rule, to Mr. Laxman, who was caught on camera accepting a bribe, while he was the BJP president, and Jaswant Singh escorting terrorists to Kandahar as an NDA Minister to ensure the release of passengers of a hijacked Indian Airlines plane.

If that was the official take, the Congress leaders also went into damage control mode privately, stressing that the party always acted against erring members pointing to the cases of former External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh implicated in the oil-for-food scam, N.D. Tiwari who had to step down as Governor of Andhra Pradesh after his name figured in a purported sex scandal, and Shashi Tharoor, who had to quit as Minister of State for External Affairs after he got embroiled in the Kochi IPL team controversy.

Earlier, Mr. Tewari pointed out that Ms. Gandhi promised a probe into all allegations of corruption in the conduct of the Commonwealth Games, and that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had ordered an enquiry immediately after the Games were over. Similarly, investigations by the Ministry of Defence, the CBI and the Antony-Mukherjee Committee were already underway in the case of the Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai, he added.

Once the enquiries were over, “if there is any act of indiscretion, criminality or misdemeanour, action would be taken,” he said.

  • Sonia Gandhi has sent a “clear message” to party activists
  • Congress always acted against erring members