Tough-talking Sonia says she will fight for Lokpal (Evening Lead)

December 21st, 2011 - 9:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi New Delhi, Dec 21 (IANS) Hitting out at those behind “a deliberate and malicious misinformation” campaign against the Congress, party chief Sonia Gandhi Wednesday said she was ready to fight for the anti-graft Lokpal in the Lok Sabha and urged Congress MPs not to be defeatist.

Speaking to her party’s parliamentarians a day after the cabinet gave its nod to the Lokpal bill, Gandhi told the MPs to be prepared for a battle in the house as she was herself ready to “fight for Lokpal and women’s reservation” bills.

The much-awaited Lokpal bill, which would set up an ombudsman to check corruption in the country, is scheduled to be introduced in the Lok Sabha Thursday amid severe criticism from activist Anna Hazare and his team members who are demanding a stronger anti-corruption law.

The women’s reservation bill, another pet project of Gandhi that proposes reservation of 33 percent seats in legislatures for women, has been hanging fire after the Rajya Sabha passed it in March 2010. It is facing opposition from many parties.

Referring to the upcoming assembly polls next year, Gandhi asked her MPs to be confident and be sure of the party doing well in the five assembly elections next year.

Gandhi said there was a “definite sentiment in our favour” in Uttarakhand and Punjab. “I am confident we will return to power (there)”. She added that while the Congress was facing “odds” in Uttar Pradesh, “there is growing support for us”.

“The challenge is to convert that support into votes on polling days… In Manipur and Goa, where we are in government, our achievements these past years give us the confidence of securing a renewed mandate.”

She, however, confessed that the party and the government were not doing enough to publicise the accomplishments of the last seven years of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule.

“I cannot see any reason for us to be defeatist. What seems to be lacking is a more effective effort by both the party and the government in communicating and propagating our accomplishments. Fight the forces out to destabilise us,” said Gandhi who is also the chairperson of the UPA.

Taking on Hazare and his team, Gandhi said there was a “deliberate and malicious misinformation” campaign that the Congress was not tackling corruption.

Gandhi listed the anti-graft legislations the UPA government has passed and intends to pass in coming days.

“Three bills with major implications are to be passed soon,” she said, listing those on protection of whistleblowers, enhancing judicial accountability, the citizens’ right to grievance redressal, and the Lokpal bill.

Describing the Lokpal bill as “pathbreaking”, Gandhi urged the opposition parties and Hazare to accept it.

“They must accept it. I am always ready for a fight,” she told reporters, emerging from the meeting.

However, Hazare, speaking in his Ralegan-Siddhi village in Maharashtra, described the cabinet-approved Lokpal bill as a betrayal of the people. “People will teach a lesson to this government one day,” he said.

Gandhi attacked the “opportunistic” opposition too, saying it “may be loud, but it is opportunistic as logic and merit are lost in their obstructionist tactics”.

She said the opposition had “never accepted the verdict of 2004 (elections that UPA won) and never reconciled themselves to the renewed mandate we got in 2009″.

She also dismissed speculation about differences between the government and the party, saying there could be different perceptions on some important issues but in the final count both were on the same platform.

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