Rahul bats for Lokpal, commits party to fighting corruption

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New Delhi, Dec 14 (IANS) Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi Saturday batted strongly for the Lokpal bill, saying it was a “serious weapon to fight corruption” and sought the help of all political parties in passing it at the earliest.

Showing a new, proactive face of the party as he had promised after the recent assembly election reverses, Gandhi, accompanied by a battery of senior ministers at the Congress party headquarters at 24, Akbar Road, said the Lokpal bill was a matter of “national importance” and “will completely transform the issue of corruption.

“What we have now is a bill where we have broad consensus. Congress party fully supports this bill and we would like the opposition and other party members to work with us and help us pass it in parliament,” said Gandhi, flanked by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Law Minister Kapil Sibal and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V. Narayanasamy and Media cell chief Ajay Maken.

The Lokpal bill, which has been passed in the Lok Sabha in Dec 2011, will be discussed in the Rajya Sabha Monday. The winter session, which is scheduled to end Dec 20, unless it is extended, is likely to be the penultimate session of parliament before next year’s national election.

There is one short session expected in February to pass what is called the vote-on-account to enable the UPA government to meet its expenses till a new government is formed.

Gandhi said: “We are 99 percent there and if we get the support of all the parties we can pass this bill which I think is very important.

“We need other parties to work with us. All other parties the BJP and others… All parties should do this together. The Congress party will fully support it, I request other parties to support it as this is a matter of national importance.

“It is not that we do not want to pass the bill. We have been working. This is to do with corruption and providing a serious weapon to fight corruption, similar to the RTI.”

He said these were among several steps the government had in mind to fight corruption.

Gandhi refused to entertain any other question and got up abruptly when questions were asked regarding the recent assembly elections and inflation.

This was Gandhi’s third interaction with the media within a week, a far cry from the earlier Gandhi who shied away from the media in the national capital and has been roundly criticised for it.

In his first appearance before the media, along with his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, on the day the assembly elections results were declared, he had said: “We have to move to a new paradigm and give serious space to the common masses in our systems and processes. I will transform Congress party into a party that you can’t even imagine.”

Analysts said the presence of senior ministers on the same dais with Gandhi was not just to demonstrate that the party and government were on the same page but also to take political credit of an issue that has been seen to be one of the major causes of the party’s electoral rout.

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