Cong terms Hazares fast-unto-death as premature

New Delhi: Congress on Tuesday termed the indefinite hunger strike by social activist Anna Hazare for a stronger Lokpal Bill as "premature", saying the government had already constituted a panel headed by Defence Minister A K Antony to go into the issue.

"The Prime Minister has already constitued a sub-committee headed by Antony….. When the process was already on, then adopting such a path is perhaps not appropriate, probably unnecessary. We respect Hazare very much but the path he has adopted is premature," party spokesman Manish Tewari told reporters.

Noting that the PMO has appropriately articulated its disappointment over Hazare`s course of action, he said in a democracy, the government moves the bill and Parliament enacts it.

"And in between there is enough scope that if any constructive suggestion comes, amendments can be moved," he said requesting Hazare to heed the PMO`s appeal and engage in a constructive discussion which could lead to enactment of a more comprehensive legislation.

He downplayed questions on National Advisory Council`s reported rejection of the draft Lokpal Bill saying that in a democracy, differences always exist and a harmonious consensus is arrived at through healthy discussions.

Hazare today began a fast-unto-death in the capital demanding enactment of a comprehensive Jan Lokpal Bill to give wider powers to Ombudsman to check corruption.

Tewari strongly disapproved of Hazare`s comments that the views of eminent persons were not considered important by the government and "a minister like Sharad Pawar, who is known for possessing large amounts of land in Maharashtra, is heading a committee that will draft the bill."

"If at all such an observation has been made, this we think, is absolutely uncalled for…..such utterances are totally uncalled for," Tewari said, adding that the persons included in the committeee have rendered distinguished public services.

He further said, "The Prime Minister`s Office has very appropriately articulated their disappointment with the course (of action) Anna Hazare adopted."

The Congress spokesperson also said that the goverment always has an "open mind" and the civil society is free to give its views on the Lokpal Bill.

To repeated questions on the perceived differences between NAC and the government over the draft of the bill, Tewari said that as far as policy framework of the bill is concerned, the party and the government subscribe to the view expressed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi at AICC`s plenary session in Burari last year.

When told about BJP`s statement that it supported Anna Hazare`s views on the draft bill, Tewari reacted sharply accusing the opposition party of being "in the habit of giving unsolicited advice".

He, however, added that the BJP was free to move for amendments when the bill is introduced in Parliament.

Meanwhile a section in Congress sees the hand of RSS behind Hazare`s agitation.

"It`s a synchronized RSS game plan," said a senior party leader. He added that RSS has let lose all its sympathisers against the UPA government after the arrest of terror cases accused allegedly affiliated to organizations linked with RSS.

The leader said that there is a need to deal firmly with the issue.