The Telegraph
Tuesday , December 13 , 2011
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress cries conspiracy

New Delhi, Dec. 12: The Congress has been rattled by the decision of Opposition parties to join Team Anna at Jantar Mantar yesterday and is planning to portray the entire agitation as a political conspiracy hatched in the garb of an anti-corruption campaign.

So long, the Congress’s approach to Anna Hazare’s protest had been one of Parliament versus a group of individuals.

But after yesterday’s show, where several parties sought to provide legitimacy to Hazare’s campaign, the Congress realises the situation has altered as the argument that some individuals were trying to undermine Parliament’s supremacy would no longer work. Hence the change in strategy.

Senior party leaders today launched an aggressive campaign to highlight the anti-Congress agenda of the entire exercise, and accused Hazare of being a “spokesperson” for the RSS.

Working along the same lines, veteran leader Rashid Masood, who quit the Samajwadi Party today to join the Congress, said his decision had been prompted by the threat Hazare’s agitation posed to secularism.

“Forces are joining hands to weaken the foundations of secularism by using corruption as a tool,” Masood said, adding that the recent Hisar poll, which the Congress lost, had exposed the true intentions of this agitation.

Team Anna had campaigned against the Congress in the Haryana by-election.

Congress spokesperson Renuka Chaudhary criticised the parties that joined Team Anna at Jantar Mantar. “It is unfortunate that rank political opportunism overrules democratic practices. We pity those who believe they can establish their own credentials by making personal attacks on Rahul Gandhi and the Congress,” she said.

Asked if the Congress was convinced that Hazare was working to a RSS plan, she said: “Evidence shows he is not interested in fighting corruption. The beauty of public life is that there are no secrets here. Anna will have to answer questions. We lament he lost a good opportunity to fight against corruption. We thought we could work with the civil society for a good cause but we are disappointed they are doing politics in the name of corruption.”

Ministers Ambika Soni, Sharad Pawar and Farooq Abdullah stressed on the supremacy of Parliament and disapproved of the decision of some parties to join the Jantar Mantar show.

While Soni spoke of the Opposition’s “double standards”, Abdullah said: “I request all parliamentarians not to lower the esteem of the House. MPs should put their opinion on an issue in the House when Parliament is in session.”

Law minister Salman Khurshid said “if we are all liars as Team Anna says, let them throw us out of the country”.

Steel minister Beni Prasad Verma said: “Anna Hazare has become the Opposition’s spokesperson, especially of the RSS.”

Party veteran Digvijaya Singh repeated his allegation that the “intent of the whole Anna team, (spiritual leader Sri Sri) Ravi Shankar and (yoga instructor) Ramdev is political and corruption is not the issue”.

The Congress is hoping that the secular-versus-communal discourse will return to weaken the Hazare effect at the national level, and the focus on corruption does not harm the party in poll-bound states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab.