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Sonia rebuffs Anna’s complaint

By mohitsexena : NEW DELHI: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi rebuffed Anna Hazare's protest letter with a six-line, 62-word reply, telling the Gandhian she had already clarified the issues raised by him while steering clear of his complaint that AICC was defaming him by calling him a front for RSS. The Congress chief also made her displeasure known about Hazare's camp making the letter public.

She wrote, "I received your letter dated June 9, 2011. Since I was not in Delhi I could not reply. In the meantime, you have also made it public. I will get information in this regard (on the issues raised). As far as the other issues raised in the letter are concerned, I have already made my views clear in my letter dated April 19, 2011."

The terse reply, coming a day before the crucial final meeting of the joint drafting committee on Lokpal bill on Monday, showed that Congress was not willing to review its hard line on the Hazare camp. The party has launched a fierce attack on Hazare and Baba Ramdev, calling them "RSS mask" and unleashing key voices on civil society. A rattled Hazare complained to Sonia in a letter on June 9.

However, Sonia's decision to steer clear with a brief reply reflects the ruling camp's displeasure with Hazare for calling the government a bunch of cheats and frauds. In contrast, in her reply on April 19, Sonia had assured Hazare of her commitment to fight corruption and assured that she did not support smear campaigns.

Civil society and the government are in a deadlock over the demand for including the PM in the Lokpal ambit. With the Hazare camp not ready to budge, the issue may not end with the Centre drafting the bill.

The Centre is likely to call an all-party meeting after the June 30 deadline of finishing the draft, to discuss the contentious issue with other parties.

The political class is chafing at Hazare's camp tarring the entire tribe with "corrupt" brush but has stayed silent lest its intervention helps Congress which is facing the brunt of the perception of promoting corruption. This, despite Congress's attempts to rally larger political opinion by dubbing rivals BJP and CPM as legitimate political forces having a "vision for the system" in opposition to civil society whose ideology was not known.

Though BJP remained tightlipped, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury's statement questioning the rationale of civil society by asking if others were uncivil, came as a relief for the isolated ruling camp.

BJP remained unmoved, making it clear that it would not give its views on Lokpal even at the all-party meeting unless Congress and the government made their stand clear. However, CPM chief Prakash Karat's demand for a copy of the draft bill before the meeting relieved government that the Left was ready to discuss the issue.

Congress leadership discussed the controversy threadbare at the meeting of the core group on Friday and Saturday, and remained firm against the inclusion of PM, higher judiciary and MPs' conduct inside Parliament in the Lokpal ambit. The five ministers on the drafting panel led by Pranab Mukherjee met on Sunday to discuss their strategy for Monday's meeting.

Union minister Kapil Sibal earlier tried to find a compromise by saying that the government could agree to the PM's prosecution after he demitted office.

The government has already said that in the absence of a consensus, two drafts could be sent to the Cabinet to make a decision on the final shape of the Lokpal bill.

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