New Delhi: A day after the Union Cabinet cleared the much-awaited Lokpal Bill, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday batted for the legislation that has been criticised by Team Anna and Opposition for being weak.
Addressing Congress MPs at a meet here, Gandhi said the Bill cleared by the Cabinet last night was strong and had strict provisions to fight graft.
The Opposition and Team Anna should accept it, the UPA chairperson said.
Describing it as a path-breaking legislation, Gandhi said the government was ready for a fight on Lokpal issue.
"We are being criticised and attacked for not tackling the scourge of corruption. This is deliberate and malicious misinformation," Gandhi told the Congress Parliamentary Party
(CPP) meeting without referring to Team Anna or Anna Hazare, who has threatened to go on a fast from December 27 over the Lokpal issue.
"I will fight for Lokpal and women`s reservation issue," she told reporters close on the heels of telling the Parliamentary Party, "I cannot see any reason for us to be defeatist."
“BJP is yet to reconcile to fact that UPA has got people`s confidence and is spreading canards about differences between Congress and the government,” Gandhi said.
The Opposition may be loud but it is opportunistic, she added.
Gandhi noted that in a democracy, there’s always room for some give and take but we must move forward.
Gandhi’s strong remarks came in the wake of the main Opposition BJP and Team Anna, which has been fighting for the creation of the anti-graft ombudsman, trashing the Bill describing it as weak.
Not yielding to Anna Hazare`s demands, the government is understood to have decided to keep CBI out of the purview of the proposed Lokpal. The CBI itself had said that it does not want to come under the purview of the Lokpal. To bring the investigating agency under Lokpal’s ambit, amendments will be needed for which the government is not ready, as is being said.
With Team Anna outrightly rejecting the draft fine-tuned by the government, it has become clear that a showdown between Anna Hazare and the government is imminent. The social activist made it clear that he would go on a fast for three days starting from December 27. On an emotional note the Gandhian added that he would “fight for a strong anti-graft bill till my last breath.”
As per reports, the government plans to introduce the new Lokpal Bill and the Constitutional Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha on December 22 and to see that they are passed on the same day.
Meanwhile, interacting with party MPs Gandhi said the Food Security Bill was UPA’s government’s dream bill but the Opposition consistently trying to stall it.
“Congress has fulfilled its poll promises on food security and Lokpal,” Gandhi told the MPs.
She asked the MPs to work hard, expressing hope that the Congress will win the upcoming Assembly polls in five states.
The aim of today meeting was to fix loose ends and bring Congress back on track and chalk out strategies ahead of the upcoming polls in five states.
This was Congress president’s first address to the party since she returned from the US where she underwent surgery in August.
Meanwhile, in Ralegan Siddhi anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare outrightly rejected the Lokpal draft prepared by the government and said that he will go ahead with his fast and `jail bharo` agitation from December 27.
Speaking to reporters on the Lokpal issue, the 74-old Gandhian said, “The UPA government has cheated all of us on the Lokpal issue and the people of this country will teach a lesson to it for failing to bring a strong anti-graft legislation to curb corruption.”
Anna said the ombudsman would not be strong and effective if the premier investigation agency was not kept under it.
"If the CBI is outside then how will the Lokpal be strong. This system will save corrupt politicians. If CBI comes under Lokpal then P Chidambaram would be in jail. You are saving corrupt politicians and say it is a strong Lokpal," he said.
Rejecting the bill, Anna also took strong exception to government bringing a separate Citizens` Charter Bill, saying a common man will have to run from pillar to post to get his grievances redressed under the proposed system.
"It is cheating people who will teach them a lesson," Hazare said.
"How can the Lokpal be effective when Citizens Charter is out of its purview? A person will have to go through various levels for redressal of his grievances.What to do? It’s like fooling people," he said.
The activist said he will visit all five poll-bound states and let people know about the misdeeds of the government. "Ahead of General Election, we will visit the whole country and tell people about the government," he said.