Sonia Gandhi says opposition, civil society levelling baseless allegations

Sonia Gandhi said opposition parties and some anti-Congress elements are levelling allegations against the party, government and the Prime Minister, as part of a conspiracy

New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Monday made a scathing attack on the opposition parties and civil society groups for levelling "baseless" allegations against the Indian Prime Minister and the party, saying it was part of a conspiracy and told party men to fight back, reports PTI.

"In a democracy, it is the job of the opposition to oppose but the manner in which opposition and some anti- Congress elements are, as part of a conspiracy, levelling baseless allegations against the Prime Minister, the UPA government, the party and some of our colleagues, is a matter of regret," she said in her opening remarks at the meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC).

"We will have to fight fiercely against such allegations at the party and the government levels," Gandhi said with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by her side.

Without referring to the petrol price hike, she said there have been economic challenges too that are impacting the common man. "The whole world was passing through a difficult phase and we have to face it and we are facing it".

She said the report to the people brought out on the third anniversary on the United Progressive Alliance government was a "document of success in-spite of the difficulties."

Without directly referring to any particular issue, she utilised the occasion to criticise non-Congress governments in the states alleging that they are not cooperating as is expected in a democracy in implementing the policies made by the Centre.

Gandhi said that the party has to be strengthened at all levels ahead of a series of state elections as also the Lok Sabha (Lower house of Parliament) polls in 2014.

"And for this, the most important thing is that we all work unitedly," she said.

While Gandhi did not take the name of civil society, the reference to "some anti-Congress elements" was obviously aimed at it.

The CWC deliberations took place a day after Anna Hazare and yoga guru Ramdev sat on a day-long fast protesting against corruption and attacking the government and threatening a fight to the finish by August on the black money issue.

Telling party men that unity is the need of the hour, she said that the strength of the organisation would grow doubly if party men use half the energy that they waste on factionalism and petty issues.

"People will behave with the party in the same manner as its image would emerge in their mind based on the opinion they form about us," she said, adding that when a political evaluation takes place, it is always based on the organisation and not an individual.

"This is a test for us as a Congress worker. Not to understand this will be a big mistake. It is a matter of caution, warning and challenge for all," Gandhi said.

The Congress President said she was confident that party men could take on any challenge, "provided we do not demoralise them in their politics."

She said the Congress has created history in the last 126 years due to the inner strength of the party workers. "If we step ahead by realising this potential as our asset, then we can achieve any objective. We will get the support of people. We have to win," she said.

It is the first formal meeting of the CWC after the party debacle in Uttar Pradesh as well its poor show in Punjab and loss of power in Goa.

There is no fixed agenda set for the CWC meeting, which is an extended affair as PCC presidents and CLP leaders including party chief ministers have been invited for the deliberations.


Kejriwal continues to contradict Baba Ramdev on naming politicians

Kejariwal's claim came as cracks appeared on the newly-formed Ramdev-Anna Hazare combine after the Team Anna member made an abrupt exit yesterday

Noida: Differences continued to remain between Team Anna and Baba Ramdev with activist Arvind Kejriwal on Monday contradicting the yoga guru's claims that a protocol had been set not to take names of politicians or make personal attacks during speeches at the venue, reports PTI.

After Kejriwal abruptly exited the fast venue yesterday following Baba Ramdev taking exception to his speech, the yoga guru had claimed that there was a protocol set for the meeting and it was decided not to take names as it would divert attention from the issues of black money and corruption.

However, Kejriwal today said, "There was no protocol that said we cannot take names. When I took the names during the speech, I got a chit saying I cannot take names. I was not told that names could not be taken."

He said he was not keeping well for the past few days and he sought permission from Hazare and Ramdev to leave the place as he had to take medicines. "I asked them whether I should sit there after taking medicines, they said no," he said.

"Ramdev is a saint. He thinks philosophically that we should not take names and we should only talk about issues. He is also correct and I am also correct," he said.

His claim came as cracks appeared on the newly-forged Ramdev-Anna Hazare combine after Kejriwal made an abrupt exit.

Last night, Ramdev had issued a statement, "We wish to run the movement with dignity. We do not want to take names and divert the attention from the issue."

Both the sides downplayed the incident claiming that Kejriwal, who is a diabetic, left the venue due to his health condition and there were no differences between the two groups which had come together two months ago after a year.

The drama unfolded at Jantar Mantar, the fast venue, immediately after Kejriwal attacked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Cabinet colleagues whom Team Anna had accused of indulging in corruption and mentioned the names of Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Jayalalithaa and Mayawati.


Sachin Tendulkar is Rajya Sabha MP now

The cricket legend, who has scored record 100 international centuries, was nominated to the Rajya Sabha and today took oath as member of parliament

New Delhi: Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar on Monday began a new innings as a member of Parliament. He took oath as member of Rajya Sabha to which he was nominated on 26th April, reports PTI.

39-year-old Tendulkar, who was accompanied by his wife Anjali, took oath in the chamber of Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari.

"Cricket comes first," Tendulkar said when reporters asked whether he preferred cricket to Parliament. However, he hastened to add that he does not want rumours to swirl that he has stopped playing cricket for Parliament.

"...I am here because of my cricketing career. I cannot take any focus away from my cricket. That is where it all started for me. I will focus on my cricket and as and when I stop playing cricket, I don't know, when I will start attending to other things.

"I don't want rumours to start that I have stopped playing cricket. I will let everyone know when I will stop playing cricket," he said when asked how he would assuage people who raise questions whether he would be able to do justice to the job in Parliament when he is still playing cricket.

There was much excitement in the corridors of Parliament as a large number of officials gathered outside Ansari's chamber where Tendulkar took oath.

A number of Parliament staffers took out their mobile phones to capture a glimpse of the cricketer.

After taking oath, Tendulkar said it was a great honour for him to be nominated as a Rajya Sabha member by the President.

Tendulkar said the Rajya Sabha nomination has put him in better position to help not only cricket but also other sports in the country.

On apprehensions that he would not be able to devote much time to Parliament, Tendulkar made it clear that he was a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha and had not sought to be a member.

"See, I am a nominee. So, I didn't go to anyone to say that I want to become a Rajya Sabha member. It is an honour which I accept with full respect but I am here because of my cricketing career," he said.

Asked whether Tendulkar's oath was special, Ansari said, "All oaths are the same. All members are same."

Tendulkar said cricket had given him many things in life during the 22 years he has played the game and he had always dreamt of giving something back to cricket in the latter half of his life.

"Whatever I am today is because of cricket and I strongly believe that. Today, with the nomination as Rajya Sabha member, I think I am in a better position not only to help cricket but also other sports in the country which is really important and means a lot to me. And I will try my best to help other sports," he said.

"But I believe there might be few obstacles along the way and a few challenges along the way. And I need help from my fellow parliamentarians, the administrators, media and our countrymen. I think, together we can make a lot of changes," Tendulkar said.

The cricketer said he would like to be remembered as someone who contributed to all sports in the country and not just by his cricket statistics.

"I would finally like to say that I will be happy if I am remembered as someone who contributed to all sports in India rather than just my cricket statistics. That would be fantastic," Tendulkar said.

Two others, actor Rekha and industrialist Anu Aga, who were nominated to Rajya Sabha along with Tendulkar, had taken oath last month when the House was in session.

Tendulkar was busy with the Indian Premier League (IPL) season, which ended on 27th May.

He had created history by scoring 100 international centuries in March this year.


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