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New Delhi: On the eve of Monday's meeting with their civil society counterparts, the government representatives on the Lokpal Bill joint drafting committee met at the North Block to discuss their strategy.
The deliberations, chaired by Union Finance Minister and panel chairman Pranab Mukherjee, was attended by Ministers Kapil Sibal, Salman Khursheed and Veerappa Moily — all members of the committee. Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office V. Narayanasamy also took part in the parleys. However, another member of the committee, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, was not present as he was out of town.
A copy of Congress president Sonia Gandhi's curt response to social activist Anna Hazare's letter was released on Sunday by civil society activists. The letter, dated June 18, says Ms. Gandhi does not wish to add anything to what she had said to Mr. Hazare in her letter dated April 19.
In the latest letter, Ms. Gandhi says: “I received your letter dated June 9, 2011. Since I was not in Delhi I could not reply to your letter. In the meantime, you have also made it public. I will get information in this regard. As far as the questions about the issues raised in the letter are concerned, I have already made my views clear in my letter dated April 19, 2011.”
The letter comes amidst a tense debate on the Lokpal Bill, with the inclusion of the Prime Minister and the higher judiciary being the two most contentious points. Government sources said the all-party meeting on the Lokpal Bill was likely to be held in the first week of July, after the committee completes its deliberations on June 30.
Mr. Hazare's letter to Ms. Gandhi had complained that the Congress media department chief Janardan Dwivedi had described him as a mask for the RSS-BJP combine. Refuting the allegation and saying he was hurt by it, Mr. Hazare challenged the Congress to prove the charge. In her April 19 letter, Ms. Gandhi clarified that she did not support smear campaigns against anybody. But in her June 18 letter, she is silent on this aspect, merely saying she has nothing to add to what she has already said — that the Lokpal Bill is very much a part of the agenda of the National Advisory Council and that she believed that “there is an urgent necessity to combat graft.”
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