Off the record

A tight leash

The Congress’ known vocal faces exercised restraint in attacking Gandhian activist Anna Hazare during his 12-day long fast against corruption. Unlike the tirade of the party’s vocal brigade against yoga guru Baba Ramdev, during his hunger strike against graft and demand to bring back black money stashed abroad, most of the outspoken Congress leaders not only kept quiet, but also avoided appearing on TV channels and refrained from even muted criticism of the veteran social activist even in their debriefings to journalists.

The most forthright leader, believed to be kept out of the purview of the party’s gag order – Digvijay Singh — was missed by everyone as he was out of the country to oversee the treatment of his ailing wife. Others like Union ministers Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram were seen either hailing or persuading the anti-graft campaigner to break his fast. Initially, the party thought of handling Hazare on the lines of Baba Ramdev. This was clear from the Aurgust 14 statement of Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari who he attacked Hazare on the basis of the Justice P B Sawant Commission report and accused him of being involved in corruption from “head to toe”. The strategy boomeranged. Thereafter, gauging the popular mood, the party refrained from such attacks.

Khalid Akhter, New Delhi


While the business BPL was being showcased at a posh hotel, the government BPL was being discussed threadbare at the chief minister’s secretariat, where Jairam supported Nitish’s demand for an independent commission to sort out the discrepancies in the BPL figures.

Nitish had written a letter to prime minister Manmohan Singh last month opposing the present method of BPL census which seeks to use certain criteria to find out poor families whose percentage has been finalised by the Planning Commission. Going by Suresh Tendulkar committee report, the Centre had estimated 54.4 per cent BPL people, while the Bihar government insists it’s 70 per cent.

“The chief minister has written a letter to the prime minister on the BPL census and I agree with him,” said Jairam, virtually agreeing with Nitish that either the Centre should accept the figures provided by the state government or it should establish an independent commission to carry out a fresh BPL census in Bihar.

Abhay Kumar, Patna

Missing in action

Prashant Bhushan, one of the prominent Team Anna members, remained absent for about 10 days in Supreme Court where he is known as the quintessential public interest litigation lawyer.

As one of the key negotiators, Bhushan kept shuttling between Ramlila Maidan here, where Hazare was fasting, and the corridors of power to arrive at an amicable solution for demands of the civil society leaders.

The scene of action for him has shifted for the time being. Thanks to his persuasive arguments, he made the government negotiator, Pranab Mukherjee, comprehend the utility of the demands, making Parliament pass the resolution, including three main demands of Team Anna.

But the Supreme Court missed his arguments during the hearings of some of the important PILs. After all, he has been instrumental in getting favourable orders in cases relating to the use of plastic sachets by gutka manufacturers, the Bellary mining and the 2G spectrum allocation cases.

The proceedings in the cases, however, went on expected lines with effective orders being passed by the apex court, courtesy his efficient legal associates.

Ashish Tripathi, New Delhi

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