Do not succumb to pressure from civil society: CWC

New Delhi: Toughening its stand against Anna Hazare, the Congress Working Committee on Friday told the Government not to appear weak and succumb to pressures from the “self-appointed representatives” of civil society.

The first meeting of the reconstituted top policy making body of the party was of the view that the government should not be accepting demands of such groups as it will open a pandora’s box in the democratic polity which has hues of opinions.

“The politics of pressure is not correct nor was the attitude of my way or the high way” was the thrust of the 100-minute deliberations at the meet in a signal to Mr. Hazare, who has announced an indefinite fast from August 16 if a strong Lokpal bill is not passed by Parliament by that time.

The CWC meeting presided by party chief Sonia Gandhi with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by her side, however, left the tricky issue of bringing the Prime Minister under the ambit of Lokpal to the all party meeting scheduled on July 3.

Congress will also bring out a booklet giving party’s detailed response on the Lokpal issue before the July 3 all party meeting, it was decided at the CWC also attended by Rahul Gandhi.

“There was a general view that it will not to be correct to concede demands, whenever a motley group of four to five persons start making demands that contrary to the Constitution. Any demand that hurts the democratic polity can not be accepted,” AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters after the meeting.

He added that Congress will support “whatever the government decides in consultation with various political parties” when asked about the party’s view on bringing the Prime Minister under Lokpal’s ambit.

At the outset, Ms. Sonia Gandhi sought to dismiss Opposition charges on the issue of corruption and maintained that the government was serious in tackling graft and all other issues of public welfare.

At the meeting devoted entirely to the Lokpal issue, Ms. Gandhi insisted that she as well as the Prime Minister had from time to time expressed their views on the issue of corruption and actions were also taken.

Union Ministers Pranab Mukherjeee heading the Joint Committee to draft Lokpal bill briefed the CWC about the steps in this direction noting that the draft is ready which will go to Cabinet as also for consultation with other political parties and would later be introduced in Parliament.

The meeting decided that further steps in this regard will be taken only as per the Constitutional provisions.

“Anybody will raise any demand. Government should not show any weakness. This kind pressure tactics is not appropriate. This was the general refrain in the meeting,” Mr. Dwivedi said.

Asked whether the party endorsed the government’s draft on Lokpal, he said that it was a Congress-led government and it would support whatever draft the government prepares.

“The government is led by Congress. Whatever decision Government takes is our decision and it is our moral responsibility to support it,” Mr. Dwivedi said.

Mr. Dwivedi, however, parried questions on whether the issue of Prime Minister being under Lokpal’s ambit came up in the meeting saying the party will give its opinion on all these matters in the booklet.

“Let 16 August come” was his brief response when asked how the party and the government will tackle Mr. Hazare’s proposed fast.

Mr. Dwivedi categorically said that the issues related to the Yoga Guru Ramdev’s fast like four ministers going to airport to receive him or the police action at Ramlila ground did not come up for discussion in the meeting.

After the free-wheeling discussion in the meeting, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that he welcomed the members’ views.

There was no discussion either on issues like Telangana or fuel price hike in the meeting. Earlier two meetings of the newly-constituted CWC were condolence meetings and this was the first meeting which took up a political issue.

In the meeting, Mr. Mukherjee told the CWC members that the response sought from Chief Ministers on Lokpal issue has arrived.

Home Minister P Chidambaram and Defence Minister A.K. Antony were also among the 30 CWC members who attended the meeting out of which 16 expressed their views.

Of the 19 CWC members, two members — Ghulam Nabi Azad and Sushila Tiriya — could not make it to the meeting. Out of the 16 permanent invitees to the CWC, three Shakeel Ahmed, Ajit Jogi and M V Rajsekhara Reddy were not present.

Deliberations of the Congress top brass’ came ahead of the all-party meeting being convened on the Lokpal bill issue on July 3 and the Monsoon session of Parliament beginning from August 1, which by all indications is expected to be a tumultuous affair.

The draft bill of the Government which opposes the inclusion of Prime Minister, higher judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament,is contrary to the stand of Team Anna.