Rattled by the overwhelming public response to Anna Hazare's anti-corruption campaign, the Congress has called a meeting of its members of parliament (MPs) on Thursday to discuss the Lokpal Bill and other issues confronting the party and UPA.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee will brief the MPs about the measures taken or proposed, by the government, to fight graft.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi will also be present at the meeting.
This is the first Congress parliamentary party meeting — though senior leaders described it as a briefing — in the absence of party president Sonia Gandhi, who is recuperating abroad after a successful surgery for an undisclosed ailment.
Top Congress sources said Sonia will return to in the first week of September. Some unconfirmed reports, however, suggested that she is likely to return on August 30.
Sources also said the Congress president was being kept updated about the situation back home, especially events related to Hazare's indefinite fast over a strong lokpal bill. The meeting comes at a time when the Anna Hazare storm has overtaken the country and several Congress MPs, including Sandeep Dikshit, Priya Dutt, Sanjay Nirupam and Naveen Jindal, have supported his cause with some even taking divergent stand from their party and the government on the lokpal (ombudsman) issue.
While Dikshit dubbed Hazare's arrest a “mistake”, Dutt called for the inclusion of the PM and higher judiciary in the ambit of the anti-corruption watchdog.
Another party MP, Praveen Singh Aron, has submitted a copy of Anna Hazare's Jan Lokpal Bill before the parliamentary standing committee on law and justice which is examining the government's lokpal bill.
Apart from corruption and lokpal, the meeting is also expected to discuss the price rise issue. A majority of Congress MPs have voiced serious concern not only over the fallout of Hazare's agitation but also on high inflation.
Many of them have faced angry reactions on the price rise in their constituencies. “This is how we gather inputs, discuss and express our concerns,” said information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni.