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Shri Manish Tewari addressed the media today.
Shri Manish Tewari said that the Congress-led UPA government has presented the Lokpal Bill today before the Parliament. The government had drafted this Bill keeping in mind the parliamentary traditions as well as the legalities and has presented the same before the parliament. As everybody is aware and as per traditions, this Bill will go to the Standing Committee and every Indian citizen has a right to render his/her advice on the Bill and that right also vests with Shri Anna Hazare and his colleagues. In the Indian democratic process, every citizen can tender his advice but the right to bring that Bill before parliament or before assembly vests only with the Members of parliament or the Legislators as the case may be. In the Indian democratic process, the political parties or the individuals reach the parliament based on the mandate given to them by the electorate. Based on their numbers, they occupy the Treasury benches or opposition benches and this democratic process has not fallen from the heavens, the electorate of India, through their elected representatives, prepare the draft of the Constitution. Even a school student understands this basic structure of the Indian democracy but why does not Anna Hazare or his other team members understand this basic fact or else they do not want to understand it intentionally.
On the question of the health condition of Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Congress President and other related questions with regard to the constitution of a small team, Shri Tewari said we have already circulated a small four line note with regard to Hon'ble President of the Indian National Congress Smt. Sonia Gandhi. The Chairperson of the Media Department earlier in the day had also briefed on the matter and I think that perhaps sums up all that we have to say on that.
With regard to the composition of the group, Shri Tewari said I think the small note that we have circulated speaks for itself. Even public personalities are entitled to certain amount of privacy in so far as the medical attention is concerned and I do hope that our friends in the media would bear that sensitivity in mind.
To a question that Shri Rahul Gandhi is also part of that group of four, does the Congress party think a bigger role for him in the organization, Shri Tewari said I think the announcement which was made by the Chairperson of the Media Department speaks for itself. The Congress President has constituted a small group consisting of four people who will look after the day to day affairs of the party in her absence. The Congress President is travelling on the advice of the Doctors to attend to a medical condition. I think there is a certain amount of circumspection and a certain amount of discretion and certain amount of sensitivity that needs to be exercised. As and when if there is any update, we will keep you informed.
To another question as to why in the absence of other senior Ministers in the cabinet, only Shri Antony has been chosen to be part of the small group, Shri Tewari said that the Hon'ble Congress President has entrusted the duty of looking after the day to day affairs of the party to senior persons who have also served in the organization and there is no need to offer any comment on the committee so constituted by the Hon'ble Congress President. Shri Tewari further added that Shri Rahul Gandhi is the General Secretary of the Indian National Congress. As I said earlier, I do not think there is any need to comment further on a decision which the Congress President herself has taken.
To another question as to whether Shri Rahul Gandhi has accompanied Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Shri Tewari said Yes, this is correct. Shri Rahul Gandhi is with his mother and as and when there is any update with regard to his travel plans, we will keep you informed.
On the question of the reaction of the Congress party over Shri Narendra Modi CM of Gujarat wishing Smt. Sonia Gandhi speedy recovery, Shri Tewari said if somebody has wished the Hon'ble Congress President speedy recovery, I think there is possibly no need to extrapolate politically or otherwise from it or to it.
To another question on the reaction of the Congress party over Anna Hazare and his other team members burning the copy of the draft Lokpal Bill, Shri Tewari said there are cases where the political parties and the leaders have burnt even the Constitution of India. Shri Prakash Singh Badal now Chief Minister, in the past had shown match stick to the constitution of India and today he is the Chief Minister. Likewise in Assam also, there has been this type of happening. But the need is that everyone should work within the frame work of the constitution of India.
On another question on discussion on price issue in the parliament, Shri Tewari said there was a resolution with regard to inflation. The government is more than equally concerned on the question of inflation and specially the food component and that inflation and in fact a series of steps which were articulated by the Finance Minister have been taken over the last 22 months to mitigate the situation. Let us understand, we operate in a difficult macro-economic environment. There is a continuing crisis in the USA, there is a crisis in the Euro zone and there has been hardening of oil prices. There has been a spike in the commodity market and these are macro-economic realities which impact upon the Indian economic situation also. So, therefore, given the broad parameters, I think the government has been able to, in the last 25-26 months, mitigate and moderate the situation possibly to the extent that it could cushion the shock to the Indian people and the Indian consumers.
To a further question on the land leased out to Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust and a Dental Surgeon in Gurgaon and whether there was any pressure, Shri Tewari said first of all to rebut your specific query, there is absolutely no question of any pressure being put on any individual much less the Panchayat of a village. The Panchayat took a decision that the land should be leased to the Trust for a charitable purpose. In fact what the Panchayat have proposed was a very minimal or nominal or notional rent which was rejected by the Trust and an appropriate rent were agreed to. Shri Tewari also said that he does not have information about the Dental Surgeon. I do not think it is relevant to the larger context of the question.
On the reaction of the Congress party on the statement of BJP over the CAG report, Shri Tewari said has the CAG tabled the report and said it would be wholly improper for me to be even reacting to a question like this.
Shri Tewari further said that to be more fair, I think the first person who should have been privy to that report is the President of India. The second person who should have been privy to the report is the Parliament of India and the third person who should have been privy to that report is the Public Accounts Committee and except for these three, everybody else seems to be privy to it and I think this raises a very serious question because a report which has not been submitted and is in the public domain only raises legitimate question about the sources of the leak. So I hope the institution in question will address it with the seriousness it deserves.
On the reaction of the Congress party over the statement of the opposition with regard to the Lokpal Bill, Shri Tewari said I do not want to join issues with the leader of the opposition since the Bill has been referred to a Standing Committee and the BJP is more than appropriately represented on that Standing Committee but just to say that a bare reading of the constitution would actually and wholly puncture the point which the leader of the opposition was trying to deliver today in the afternoon and insofar as the burning of the copies of the draft Lokpal Bill is concerned, I have already replied to that.
To another question as to under which Article of the Constitution of India, the Prime Minister is being kept out of the ambit of the Lokpal Bill, Shri Tewari said insofar as the articles of constitution are concerned, the legislative competence is concerned, these are all issues which the parliament and the parliamentary standing committee is more than capable of examining. As and when the Bill gets referred to the Standing committee, these concerns may be raised by those very same people who had perhaps raised them in the house today. They will be dealt with when the committee reports back to the parliament and we are confident that all these matters would be addressed in great details to the satisfaction of both the parliament and the people of this country.