Missing Sonia, says Congress

Sonia Gandhi

As many young Congress MPs expressed their reservation against the government's decision to arrest Anna Hazare to senior party leaders, the ruling party on Thursday said it was sorely missing party president Sonia Gandhi. This came even as the party continued its flip-flop on the Anna issue, suggesting on Friday that party spokesman Rashid Alvi's apprehension on Wednesday about US backing of Anna's movement could be a "human error".

Asked if the party's dithering is due to the absence of the Sonia who is recuperating after a surgery abroad, party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhary, at a press briefing on Thursday, said: "There is no doubt we are missing her terribly and we wish her speedy recovery and she will be back in action very soon and till then we are trying to do our best."

The day Hazare was arrested, some Congress MPs were learnt to have taken up the issue with Rahul Gandhi and other senior party leaders urging them to ensure his release on the plea that the party should not be seen suppressing the democratic rights to protest. The same afternoon, before the Central Election Committee meeting to decide candidates for UP elections, Rahul took up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Rahul, who is part of the four-member committee set up by the Congress president to look after party affairs in her absence, has, however, refrained from making any public statement on the issue.

Asked about Rahul's silence, Chowdhary said: "He, too, is entitled to freedom of expression. He will speak when he will feel like it. He is not a parrot." As for the role of the four-member committee, she said, it is "for the party". "Should we handle even the government?"

The ruling party has been shifting its stance. A day after party spokesman Manish Tewari had called Hazare "corrupt" citing PB Sawant Commission report, another spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi refused to endorse it. Again on Wednesday, Alvi stated that there could be a "foreign hand" behind Anna's movement.

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