Sonia meets Anna, BJP says yes

26 May 2011
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.New Delhi, July 2:Congress president Sonia Gandhi today played stateswoman, ensuring that her tete-a-tete with Anna Hazare and his team passed off "cordially" and softened the battle lines after her party leaders had breathed fire at the civil rights activists.

The immediate implication of Sonia's public relations exercise — conducted against the backdrop of rancorous statements from senior colleagues such as Kapil Sibal and Digvijay Singh — was to calm tempers ahead of the all-party meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has convened tomorrow to discuss the Lokpal bill, political observers said.

But there was no word from Hazare whether he would go ahead with his planned fast from August 16 or call it off.

Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia accompanied Hazare to 10 Janpath.

Briefing journalists on the meeting, Congress's chief spokesperson Janardan Dwivedi said: "Both sides restated their views that are already in the public domain and requested each other to consider them again."

Sonia had informed Hazare she would again place his views before her party colleagues "from her heart", he said.

"In a democracy, every contending side places its opinions and what emerges out of it is the outcome of a process of consensus. The Congress will support whatever emerges from the process of consensus, which the government is about to start among the political parties. Of course, Parliament is supreme and sovereign," Dwivedi said.

Asked if after today's "pleasant" interaction the Congress still thought Hazare was an RSS "stooge", Dwivedi said: "When there is no dispute it is not appropriate to create one by asking such questions."

Stumped by Sonia's effort, the BJP set aside its in-house dissensions and decided that the NDA would participate in tomorrow's meeting.

However, the Shiv Sena, an NDA constituent, will not attend. NDA's parliamentary chairperson L.K. Advani said: "The Sena had an impression that the NDA would stay away from the all-party meeting," giving away that the BJP too was initially disinclined to go for it.

Sources in the Janata Dal (United) and the Akali Dal — the other two NDA components whose representatives were at the gathering in Advani's house — said they managed to "persuade" the BJP to "come off its high horse" and be a part of the Prime Minister's initiative.

"The BJP has gone on about corruption day after day, (but) when the government started a process to curb the evil, their leaders felt they should not be a part of it simply because they don't want the UPA to walk away with the credit for the Lokpal law. This is sheer cussedness. The Dal (U) and the Akalis made it clear that regardless of what the BJP did, we would go ahead and attend," a Dal (United) source said.

Finally, the fear that it could not afford a crack in the much-depleted NDA forced the BJP to dump the line that its president Nitin Gadkari had been advocating lately. Gadkari, reportedly prodded by the RSS, had hinted the BJP might not go for the meeting.

On the Left flank, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat said his party would attend the all-party meeting tomorrow but only to slam the government. Other Left parties would also attend.

Karat attacked the government for not consulting political parties earlier. "They have been talking to various kinds of people and not political parties. Why should we waste our time discussing a draft that is not the government's?" he asked.;_ylt=AjRAojCg2ypHfdvxqABzO1zFscB_;_ylu=X3oDMTM5anJjbTV1BHBrZwMxY2Y1ZjM1ZS05Nzk0LTM3YWMtOTlkMy1hOWM3ZDVlNDY4NDIEcG9zAzQEc2VjA01lZGlhVG9wU3RvcnkEdmVyAzFhZDM3ODUwLWE1NTMtMTFlMC1iZWRlLTMzNzUyODY4YTQ2ZA--;_ylg=X3oDMTF2MXZhcW0yBGludGwDaW4EbGFuZwNlbi1pbgRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANuYXRpb25hbHxwb2xpdGljcwRwdANzZWN0aW9ucw--;_ylv=3
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