Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday rejected the charges of Team Anna that the government had "swindled unbelievable amounts" of money and hit out at yoga guru Ramdev for claiming that "astronomical" sums of black money can be brought back from other countries in one stroke.
Addressing the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting in New Delhi, he said "canards and falsehood" were being spread by "disparate" and "desparate" elements and asked the party cadres to effectively tackle the "misinformation".
In an apparent reference to yoga guru Ramdev and Team Anna, Singh said, "Every day one hears of astronomical sums of black money that can be brought back in one stroke. It is alleged that in every area of its activity, our government has swindled unbelievable amounts of money. Nothing can be farther from the truth."
The assertive statement by the Prime Minister came a day after Ramdev and Anna Hazare held a day-long protest, with the yoga guru attacking the government over black money.
The Team Anna has been alleging that thousands of crores had been misappropriated by various departments and ministers.
"The truth is that our government is fully committed to tackle the menace of corruption in public life and bring about transparency and accountability in the work of government authorities. And we have proved this by taking action on multiple fronts," Singh said.
"The legislative and administrative action we have taken in this area speaks for itself," he added.
The Prime Minister said, "the misinformation being spread by disparate, desperate elements, unified only by their opposition to our government, needs to be tackled effectively."
Singh underlined the need for the leaders and workers of Congress party to "educate the public about the canards and falsehood spread by those who are opposed to us".
He maintained that the Congress is a party whose policies, programmes and promises are focussed on the "well-being" of the common man.
"It is only the Congress party that can take the country forward on a path of progress in which each and every citizen shares the fruits of development. It is only the Congress party which can carry with it all sections of our society," the Prime Minister said.
"We have an onerous responsibility on our shoulders and we must not fail this responsibility," he said, adding "I have no doubt that we will emerge stronger from these testing times."
Singh said the UPA government had made every effort to fulfill the promises made to the aam aadmi (common man) by delivering high growth rate, implementing programmes for social and economic inclusion on "a scale never seen before" and taking "unprecedented" steps to empower the citizens.
Listing out various achievements of the government, he said poverty is declining faster than it did before UPA took charge, real wages are increasing, agricultural growth has accelerated and economic security has been ensured.
He also cited developments in other fields like internal security, defence, telecom, education, social and health sectors.
At the same time, he acknowledged that naxal-affected districts "remain a problem area".
Earlier, a combative Sonia Gandhi on Monday made a scathing attack on the opposition and civil society for levelling "baseless" allegations against the Prime Minister and the party, saying it was part of a conspiracy and told partymen to fight back.
"In a democracy, it is the job of the opposition to oppose but the manner in which opposition and some anti-Congress elements are, as part of a conspiracy, levelling baseless allegations against the Prime Minister, the UPA government, the party and some of our colleagues, is a matter of regret," she said in her opening remarks at the meeting of the Congress Working Committee.
"We will have to fight fiercely against such allegations at the party and the government levels," Gandhi said with Singh by her side.
Without referring to the petrol price hike, she said there have been economic challenges too that are impacting the common man.
"The whole world was passing through a difficult phase and we have to face it and we are facing it."
She said the report to the people brought out on the third anniversary on the UPA government was a "document of success inspite of the difficulties."
Without directly referring to any particular issue, she utilised the occasion to criticise non-Congress governments in the states alleging that they are not cooperating as is expected in a democracy in implementing the policies made by the Centre.
Gandhi said that the party has to be strengthened at all levels ahead of a series of state elections as also the Lok Sabha polls in 2014.
"And for this, the most important thing is that we all work unitedly," she said.
While Gandhi did not take the name of civil society, the reference to "some anti-Congress elements" was obviously aimed at it.
The CWC deliberations took place a day after Anna Hazare and yoga guru Ramdev sat on a day-long fast protesting against corruption and attacking the government and threatening a fight to the finish by August on the black money issue.
Telling partymen that unity is the need of the hour, she said that the strength of the organisation would grow doubly if partymen use half the energy that they waste on factionalism and petty issues.
"People will behave with the party in the same manner as its image would emerge in their mind based on the opinion they form about us," she said, adding that when a political evaluation takes place, it is always based on the organisation and not an individual.
"This is a test for us as a Congress worker. Not to understand this will be a big mistake. It is a matter of caution, warning and challenge for all," Gandhi said.
The Congress President said she was confident that partymen could take on any challenge, "provided we do not demoralise them in their politics."
She said the Congress has created history in the last 126 years due to the inner strength of the party workers.
"If we step ahead by realising this potential as our asset, then we can achieve any objective. We will get the support of people. We have to win," she said.
It is the first formal meeting of the CWC after the party debacle in Uttar Pradesh as well its poor show in Punjab and loss of power in Goa.
There is no fixed agenda set for the CWC meeting, which is an extended affair as PCC presidents and CLP leaders including party chief ministers have been invited for the deliberations.