Anna Hazare's attack on Congress leaders dubbing them as "looters" on Thursday evoked strong indignation among party MPs at a meeting in New Delhi in which they opposed any move to withdraw the Lokpal Bill introduced by the government.
The meeting at which senior leader Pranab Mukherjee briefed the lawmakers on Lokpal issue also saw members expressing themselves against being in the "defensive mode" against Team Anna, which, they said, has adopted an "aggressive" posture.
Sources in the party said that a large number of MPs were "upset" with Hazare's last night attack and they also resented his call to people to hold demonstration outside MPs' houses as many apprehend that such protests could lead to law and order problems.
Attacking the ruling party and the government, Hazare said on Wednesday night, "We were of the view that there were some good people in the Congress but all looters have now come together in the Congress and the country has no future in the hands of such people."
He had made the remarks after his associates negotiating with the government said that the talks are back to square one and apprehended that Hazare could be arrested and removed from the protest site.
Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi gave vent to the hurt feelings of MPs saying that such language does not behove a person like Hazare.
Party leaders also underlined that the regret expressed by party spokesman Manish Tewari to Hazare for his earlier remarks against the Gandhian was also in line with the party's disapproval of personal attacks.
In the CPP meeting, MPs were also of the view that Parliament and constitutional process cannot be overlooked under insistence of any particular group.
In his briefing, Mukherjee sought to give credit to the party over the Lokpal issue telling members that it was Congress-led coalition that had promised a Lokpal Bill in the 2009 general elections.
After the polls, party chief Sonia Gandhi initiated the exercise of drafting of the bill through the National Advisory Council, he said.
The seriousness of the Congress in the endeavour was reflected in the fact that the government agreed to form a joint committee with Team Anna on the issue, he contended.
Mukherjee told the MPs that attempts are being made to take over legislature's business and when the government stressed on respecting the constitutional process and the sovereignty of Parliament, an impression was sought to be given that government was opposing the measure.
He told them that while the fundamental rights of a person to demonstrate was important, government is also duty bound to save a human life.
Voicing concern over the bad press government was getting on the issue, Congress MPs wanted it to be "pro-active in apprising people about the truth" of the matter. They said the issue could have been handled in a better manner.
Rahul Gandhi as well as senior ministers were present at the meeting. Though Gandhi himself did not speak, several young MPs urged the government to counter allegations by the civil society through interventions in both Houses of Parliament.
After the meeting, Dwivedi said, "Congress feels in a democracy, the Constitution, Parliament, executive and legislature have their own areas and roles to play. Anything challenging basic structure of democracy won't be accepted."
Sources said the party felt the Prime Minister has reached out to all sections through his speech in Lok Sabha and hoped of a breakthrough in the logjam after this.