Centre breaks silence on anti-corruption panel

Making a statement from the government’s side for the first time ever since a CD surfaced in which panel co-chairman Shanti Bhushan purportedly talked about fixing a judge, Finance Minister and committee head Pranab Mukherjee made it clear that Congress will not be affected in any way from these controversies.

Reading out a statement after a hastily called Congress core committee meeting, the government’s arch trouble-shooter said: "Controversies have been raised about some members of the joint drafting committee on the Lokpal Bill.

“I would like to make it clear that in the view of the government as well as the view of my party, the Congress, will not, in any way, be affected by these controversies. The government members on the committee are looking forward to working with Anna Hazare and his colleagues on the committee and to draft a strong and sound Lokpal bill in order to fight corruption."

Attended by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union Ministers P Chidambaram and AK Antoney and Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, the meeting discussed the series of controversies and the mudslinging especially around Shanti Bhushan and released the statement in order to put and end to them.

The government’s firm stand could bring the focus back on the drafting process, leading to the Lokpal Bill’s introduction in the Parliament during the monsoon session.

Senior Congress leader and AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh has been the main, and the only, critic of the panel members as he questioned the role of Bhushan.

Singh had raised issues over Bhushan undervaluing property in Allahabad by paying a lower stamp duty. He was critical of the leading advocate, after reports said Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati had allotted two farm house plots to him and his son at Noida, on the outskirts of Delhi.

The former Madhya Pradesh chief minister had also questioned Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, a member of the panel as to why the state topped in corruption despite him. Hegde subsequently said he was considering quitting the panel over the remarks. However, Singh changed tune on Friday saying he never questioned the credibility of Justice Hegde.

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