| Ambika comes out after meeting the Prime Minister on Thursday. Picture by Rajesh Kumar
New Delhi, Sept. 20: “Democratic” Congress has asked its members to maintain discipline and hold their tongue before the media.
In a stiff message to everybody down the line, the party said “maintenance of discipline by its members in the party or in the government” was of “utmost importance”.
The message came in a signed statement from general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi, who heads the media department, and released with an informal advisory that due note should be taken of the fact that it was meant as much for Congress ministers as party leaders.
The statement said the Congress was a “vast, democratic movement with ample intra-party scope for conveying a wide spectrum of opinions and views which are listened to, absorbed and where necessary, acted upon”. However, airing such views in public generate “unnecessary and avoidable confusion”.
It went on to say that in the “specific context” of the Ram setu issue, the matter should be treated as “closed” and uncalled-for comments “avoided” because the “prompt withdrawal of the affidavit” reflected the party’s and the government’s “alacrity and sensitivity on matters of personal belief and faith”.
The affidavit — by the Archaeological Survey of India, which reports to the culture ministry headed by Ambika Soni — had said there was no “incontrovertible” proof that Ram ever lived.
The context for issuing the statement was the flurry of exchanges through the media after Ambika got embroiled in the controversy.
Jairam Ramesh, a deputy minister, and R.K. Dhawan, a senior functionary, had suggested she should resign. Later, Dhawan amended his statement to include Ramesh’s sack as well for “speaking out of turn”.
The party tried to cap the situation through spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi, who said the less people spoke on the issue the better.
Apparently, party leaders decided that a stronger reiteration was called for.
“This statement is a matter of record,” Dwivedi said. “It’s an official message which goes down the party line because it concerns internal party affairs.”
He also said the Congress had forums where members could voice opinions. “But if anyone speaks through the media, it creates misunderstandings and that must be avoided.”
The party took note of what Ambika told reporters shortly after she met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this morning.
“I have worked honestly and according to rules and regulations,” she said. “But I am learning that it is not enough to work honestly and according to rules. You have to have something more.”
She refused to elaborate what “something more” meant.