Rahul Gandhi makes pitch to 'own' Lokpal bill NEW DELHI: Congress on Saturday suddenly raised the pitch on the Lokpal bill with party vice-president Rahul Gandhi vowing to get it passed in the current session of Parliament itself and brightening the prospect of the anti-corruption watchdog becoming a reality. In a move to seek political copyright over the legislation, Rahul addressed a rare press conference and asserted that the process to create a powerful Lokpal is "99% complete" and appealed to holdouts like Samajwadi Party to put aside "little differences" so that Parliament passes the landmark legislation by December 20 when the winter session ends. "Hum bilkul finishing line par hai (We are at the finish line)," Rahul said and pointed out that political parties had a unique opportunity to pass the Lokpal bill hanging fire since 2011. "This bill is needed. This bill will help India," he said seeking support from political parties in what easily marked Congress's most emphatic backing for the move to set up the anti-corruption ombudsman. The bold pitch is a far cry from the hesitation and downright reluctance with which government had approached the bill after it was virtually coerced by a powerful Anna Hazare-led agitation into drafting the legislation. The bill cleared by Lok Sabha last December was seen as a paler version of what was required, and was read as evidence of Congress's lack of enthusiasm. Rahul's own engagement with the matter had remained limited to a brief intervention in the Lok Sabha where he asked for the ombudsman to be vested with constitutional status and argued that doing so would be a game-changer. On Saturday, Rahul was at pains to deny that Congress's sliding popularity graph as underlined by its defeats in four states, emergence of AAP â€” seen as a reflection of middle class anger â€” and Anna Hazare's renewed agitation for Lokpal acted as a spur for the ruling party to shift gears. He termed the suggestion that electoral setbacks were the trigger for Congress's activism as "a bit unfair", and claimed the party is committed to a framework to fight corruption and the process started with the enactment of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. "The big first step in fighting corruption was the Right to Information. To say we are doing this (Lokpal) because of elections...is a bit unfair. Lokpal will be an addition, a very powerful addition, to that framework," he said. Saying Congress enacted the RTI when "we were doing perfectly fine", he responded to a question on Samajwadi Party's objections, saying, "The issue is not of victory and defeat." Rahul said, "our job is to create an infrastructure against corruption...I appeal to all political parties that this is bill of national importance." The claim did not impress the BJP. Leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley alleged Congress has become an advocate of the anti-graft ombudsman only lately but added BJP is ready to support the passage of the bill "even without a discussion". BJP's unstinted support for the bill, despite reservations about some specific provisions, attested to Rahul's "we-are-almost-there" optimism about the prospect of the Lokpal bill going through, but without constituting a guarantee of its trouble free passage in the Rajya Sabha on Monday and, later, in the Lok Sabha. SP, which thwarted the adoption of the bill in the Upper House despite obvious majority support, repeated its opposition saying it will not support the bill under any circumstance. Saturday's remarks were the Gandhi scion's third significant intervention beginning with his rubbishing the ordinance to protect convicted lawmakers from disqualification, followed by his statement in support of gay rights earlier this week. Rahul's remarks - along with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's criticism of the Supreme Court ruling re-criminalizing same sex relationships - look like a clear attempt to reconnect with a liberal, progressive image that took a beating over corruption scandals and inflation. The assertions were naturally seen in the context of Rahul's statement in the wake of last week's debacle that he would derive "appropriate lessons" from AAP's stunning debut in Delhi. Flanked by senior ministers P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and V Narayanasamy and AICC media head Ajay Maken, the Congress leader said "Lokpal ek bada kadam hoga, zaroori kadam (Lokpal will be a big step, a necessary step)." Disclaimers notwithstanding, timing of the Congress leader's media interaction is bound to be viewed in the light of a deepening dread in the party that it has lost support of the vocal middle class as well as traditional vote bases like urban poor, tribals and dalits. As BJP prime ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi prepares to take on Congress in the last leg ahead of Lok Sabha elections, Rahul's leadership and capacity to deliver the goods for his party are clearly under scrutiny as well. Backing Rahul's assessment, Chidambaram began the press conference by saying the bill in Parliament ensures the "pre-eminence" of the Lokpal and Sibal added that the law stands for the dreams of the people agitated over graft. Though he appealed to political parties opposed to the bill to reconsider, Rahul clearly committed himself to the legislation's passage, saying, "We are going to pass this bill" while adding that he hopes all parties to back the effort. Probed on whether he will meet fasting Hazare and if the bill would create a parallel power centre, Rahul stuck to script saying the current version of Lokpal enjoys a broad consensus in Parliament. Rahul Gandhi makes pitch to 'own' Lokpal bill - The Times of India ******************************************************************************************* The Congress will never learn. Instead of being upfront, the continuous way they want to fool the people in purloining falsehood only indicates immorality of purpose. The fraudulent manner in which the Vice President of India (who should have been a person of high morals), at the behest of his Congress Party scuttled the Bill, that had been watered down and made impotent by the Congress, at midnight with a lame excuse indicates that the Congress had no interest in passing the Bill that would have released the investigations from Govt control. Now, having been drubbed in all elections, and with defeat being an obvious corollary, the Congress is sadly trying to take the high ground, which has never been theirs being the most corrupt lot seen this side of the Suez and the decade. Rahul Gandhi, sadly is a totally ignorant man and is the real 'caged parrot' since he has shown no mind of his own so far! Imagine the corrupt claiming that they are keen to set up an anti corruption infrastructure!