New Delhi, Aug. 16: The Centre today strove to argue that the real issue in the Anna Hazare episode was not the police action or the debate on corruption but the constitutional process of law enactment, which the civil society group was undermining.
A worried Congress echoed its government, asking other political parties if they were prepared to impair parliamentary democracy for political expediency and short-term gains.
The Congress realises the possibility of the situation taking a downturn because corruption is an emotive issue and the Centre has been battling a series of graft scandals.
The party hopes that if it can successfully turn the debate into one on Parliaments supremacy in making laws, it will receive support from those who understand the constitutional scheme.
It can also pay dividends, sources said, if someone approaches the Supreme Court on the police action.
Senior ministers believe that the court, even if it frowns on the police move, cannot condone a civil society group challenging the roles of the government and Parliament in lawmaking. Whatever the apex court says on the matter would be crucial.
Top Congress leaders — Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, P. Chidambaram, Rahul Gandhi, Ambika Soni, Kapil Sibal, Ahmed Patel, Janardan Dwivedi and a few others — have held several discussions on the matter in the past two days.
They have decided that the party should focus on this larger question instead of getting bogged down on the nitty-gritty of police action or engaging in personal smear campaigns. Spokespersons have been asked not to attack Hazare and instead concentrate on the question of principle.
Chidambaram told reporters: I want to ask the people of India, should laws be made by Parliament or by a group of activists in a maidan? If a few activists, however well-meaning and enlightened, decide this should be the law and nothing else will be accepted, I want to know if this is the way forward.
Soni questioned Hazares line that corruption would end after the enactment of his groups version of the Lokpal bill. They are playing with the emotions of innocent people. We understand there is angst in the country. But Lokpal is not the panacea for corruption, she said.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi pleaded with the Opposition not to brush aside questions of principle. Which party supports indefinite fasts and (the formation of) regular joint drafting committees for making laws? Which party believes that governments (should) agree to such demands? he said.
Chidambaram objected to Hazares appeal to government employees to take mass leave, saying he hoped nobody would respond.