A day after Congress president Sonia Gandhi made it clear that she was not supporting or encouraging the politics of smear campaigns, the party has directed its leaders to ‘observe restraint and caution’ while commenting on individuals. The immediate provocation for this directive appears to be the remarks attributed to Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh about Karnataka Lokayukta justice Santosh Hegde during a news conference in Lucknow on Wednesday.
Singh had reportedly stated: “It is said he (Hegde) is so effective...he is praised for being the most effective Lokayukta...but when he hasn’t been able to check corruption in Karnataka...what sort of effectiveness is this?”
Hours later, Singh clarified. “I hold justice Hegde in high esteem and my remarks were wrongly attributed to him.”
Congress leaders have now been informally asked “not to cross the official party line while commenting on sensitive matters and individuals and their statements should be in consonance with the stand being articulated by spokespersons on daily basis”.
“You cannot go on commenting against the individuals like this. Caution and restraint are the key words…We never comment on individuals…the party cannot compromise on certain things,” a top Congress functionary said.
“By commenting on the individuals, the political discourse gets personalised. The Congress president has also made it clear on number of occasions…the latest being her letter to Anna Hazare,” he said.
Gandhi’s reply came to Hazare’s April 18 letter to her in which he complained about the Congress leaders’ smear campaign against civil society members of the joint drafting committee on the Lokpal Bill.