Congress backs Digvijay, mum on Hazare’s letter to Sonia (Lead)

April 18th, 2011 - 10:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi New Delhi, April 18 (IANS) The Congress Monday backed party leader Digvijay Singh’s right to express views on anti-corruption campaign of civil society activists even as it declined to comment on Anna Hazare’s letter to party president Sonia Gandhi complaining about Singh’s “factually wrong” statements.

“The letter has been made public. I do not want to be drawn into the contents of the letter. However, in a democracy, everyone is entitled to their viewpoint. Discourse in a democracy cannot be one way,” Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said.

He said that if required, the party will respond to the letter in a holistic way.

He said that Digvijay Singh, a former Madhya Pradesh chief minister, had articulated his views and had not committed a crime.

“Democracy provides everybody an opportunity to provide views in public space. Anna Hazare has one viewpoint, others have another. Having a country with a such a vibrant tradition subject to a caveat that (you) cannot place views in public space would mean derailing of democracy,” Tewari said.

Tewari also said that free expression of views should not be seen as a clash with civil society activists.

“There is no clash. The UPA (United Progressive Alliance) is determined to fight corruption. The government has taken action in all complaints of graft,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Hazare released a letter he wrote to Gandhi, criticising the comments of Singh and Communications Minister Kapil Sibal that “he (Hazare) has been influenced”.

“One of the general secretaries of the Congress party (Digvijay Singh) has been making many statements in the press in the last one week. I assume that he has the support of the party to make such remarks,” Hazare said in his letter.

“Most of these statements are factually wrong, which makes one believe whether his only intention is to create confusion, mislead people and derail the ongoing discussions in joint committee. Do you personally approve of his statements?” Hazare asked Gandhi in the letter.

Singh told a TV channel that Hazare has been “surrounded by a coterie”. He also objected to Hazare’s praise for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Hazare in his letter to Gandhi also said corrupt forces were trying to derail the process of drafting a new anti-graft law.

Asked about reference to remarks attributed to Sibal by some civil society activists, Tewari said the issue was whether there was “sanctity for de-briefing of media in a political process”.

“Those who had extrapolated from debriefing the media should acquaint them with the practices sacrosanct in a democratic process,” Tewari added.

Hazare’s 97-hour fast here was called off April 9 after the government agreed to form a joint committee comprising five ministers and five civil society leaders to draft a stringent Lokpal Bill.

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