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Rahul seeks Adarsh review

- Leader disagrees with Mumbai decision to junk report, leaves CM squirming
Rahul Gandhi addresses the media conference. (PTI)

New Delhi, Dec. 27: Rahul Gandhi today sought to plug an embarrassing gap between the anti-corruption pitch and practice by publicly seeking a review of the Maharashtra cabinet’s summary rejection of the Adarsh report.

“Personally, I don’t agree with that decision. They (the state cabinet) should reconsider that,” the Congress vice-president told a news conference in New Delhi where Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan was also present.

Last week, a probe panel had named four chief ministers and several ministers as well as bureaucrats in a report on the allocation of flats in the Adarsh housing society in Mumbai.

But the state cabinet had immediately decided to reject the report — a stand that was at odds with Rahul’s thrust against corruption.

The issue became a sticking point at a meeting of Congress chief ministers that preceded the news conference and intended at discussing ways to refurbish the party’s battered image against the backdrop of corruption charges and price rise.

Since Rahul has made anti-corruption the main party theme for the past few weeks, he had little option but to call for a review of the ill-timed decision by the Prithviraj Chavan government. Rahul’s comments were presaged by similar sentiments expressed by young minister Milind Deora a few days ago.

However, Rahul steered clear of the explosive streak that was in evidence when he condemned the ordinance to shield politicians by using words such as “nonsense” and that it should be “torn up”. The dramatic intervention a few months ago drew criticism as an attempt to undermine the Prime Minister.

But Rahul’s unambiguous, though polite, articulation caused acute embarrassment to chief minister Prithviraj who enjoys a clean image in the party and was sent to Mumbai in the aftermath of the Adarsh scandal that felled his predecessor Ashok Chavan.

Today, Prithviraj faced uncomfortable questions at the meeting. Maharashtra general secretary in-charge Mohan Prakash endorsed the view that there was no convincing reason to defend the rapid rejection of the report.

But the chief minister chose to be non-committal, saying he would discuss the matter with his cabinet colleagues.

Rahul, while expressing his support for the reversal of the decision, took care to point out that other states were not showing adequate responses to the question of corruption. “We hear big talk and little action,” he said, both in the context of instituting a firm legal framework to fight corruption and taking administrative action.

Although Rahul didn’t name the BJP and Narendra Modi, he referred to them by saying “what is interesting to me is that other parties are only talking and only one party is taking action. Lokpal is just one step, we need to create a framework to fight corruption. The framework is ready, let us pass the bills in Parliament. Let’s stop talking and take action. But I hear a lot of talk on corruption from the other side, no action. When I say let’s pass the pending bills, there is silence from the other side. We are blocked in Parliament. It has become a fashion… to talk, to lecture, to give lofty speeches. If we are serious to fight corruption, let’s make laws.”

The Congress has accused Modi of passing a weak Lokayukta bill in Gujarat and taking no action against tainted ministers.

Identifying this as one of Modi’s key weaknesses, the chief ministers’ meeting today decided to pass Lokayukta bills in all Congress-ruled states by February 28.

The new bills will conform to the Lokpal Bill passed in Parliament recently, bringing the degree of accountability in states on a par with the national law. This will be used to underscore how shallow the Gujarat bill is and to target Modi’s alleged hypocrisy on corruption.

The five points decided at today’s meeting also included steps to check prices of fruits and vegetables and to streamline the distribution of foodgrain in states.