In a clear indication of the ruling UPA having run out of patience with the Anna Hazare team, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has sent a blunt response to the social activist’s letter that complained about a smear campaign being run against him.
Her brief and terse reply, in Hindi, comes ahead of Monday’s final meeting of the troubled joint panel drafting the lokpal bill, on which the government and the civil society members have developed irreconcilable differences.The key difference on whether the prime minister and higher judiciary should be brought within the ambit of the ombudsman almost led to a collapse of talks.
Telecom minister Kapil Sibal told CNN IBN TV channel: “Within the government, we feel — prima facie — the prime minister should not be covered. But at the same time we want to make sure that if he demits office, he should not be exonerated from prosecution.”
Gandhi wrote to Hazare on Sunday: “I received your letter dated June 9, 2011. I could not reply to it since I was out of Delhi. In the meantime, you have also made it public. I will get information in this regard. As far as the questions about the issues raised in the letter are concerned, I have already made my views clear in my letter dated April 19, 2011.”
In her April 19 letter, Gandhi made it clear to Hazare that she did not support smear campaigns against anybody. The letter was in response to a missive by Hazare, alleging that the Congress media department head Janaradhan Dwivedi had called him an RSS-BJP “mask”.
Gandhi’s latest letter was made public by Hazare’s team on a day when both the government and the civil society activists were busy finalising their strategies for Monday’s face-off.
Finance minister and chairman of the 10-member joint panel Pranab Mukherjee met the government representatives in the panel on Sunday - for the second time in 48 hours.