After having been beaten black and blue by Team Anna, the Congress party and the government are finally waking up to take the Gandhian on even as media managers in the party have so far not come out actively against the anti-corruption crusaders.
While a senior Congress leader made it clear that party chief Sonia Gandhi is unlikely to reply to the publicly distributed letter of Anna Hazare which complains against senior leaders Digvijaya Singh and Kapil Sibal, sources said that the Congress president is seriously concerned about the charges of corruption leveled against the party and the government and wants the issue to be handled with a great deal of sensitivity.
It is learnt that soon after it became clear that Anna Hazare's fast unto death against corruption was taking serious overtones, Sonia Gandhi had a meeting with the top Congress leaders.
In the meeting she told the leaders that she had raised the issue of corruption at the plenary in Burari and had even laid out a blueprint on how to proceed further to curb the menace, "but none of you took it up seriously".
She told the senior leaders that she realised that corruption had the potential to become a critical issue and that is why she had warned them about it in Burari.
But neither she nor Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took Anna Hazare seriously when he came knocking on their door and wanted to discuss the matter with them.
As the Congress and the government slept for four days, waking up only when it was too late, the party is now trying to make amends by digging up the dirt on Anna Hazare and his team of crusaders.
The Congress has begun to quote from the Justice P B Sawant report submitted to the Maharashtra government in 2005 where it investigates charges of corruption leveled against the social activist and a number of his trusts.
He reportedly has over a dozen trusts with Justice Sawant investigating just a couple of them. In fact, when the local government tried to take action on the basis of Sawant's report, it was found that there was some 'technical error.'
Hazare has said about this report that not once but four times he has told government to take action on basis of it.
The 2005 report submitted to the Maharashtra government by Justice PB Sawant suggests serious corruption charges against anti-graft activist Anna Hazare.
The last chapter in the report ( from pages 256 to 372 ) deals only with Anna Hazare and comes to some interesting conclusions.
The commission set up in 2003 "to probe into the allegations of corrupt practices and maladministration into matters" of several state ministers and social activist Anna Hazare clearly indicts the Magsaysay awardee.
The report submitted on February 23, 2005, concludes: "The expenditure of Rs 2.20 lacs from the funds of the Hind Swaraj Trust for the birthday celebrations of Shri Hajare was clearly illegal and amounted to a corrupt practice."
Sant Yadavbaba Shikshan Prasarak Mandal, a trust with which Hazare is associated since its inception in 1980, "committed illegalities" in its audits, according to Justice Sawant.
The report says, "There is no doubt that the trust, and therefore, the trustees of the trust committed illegalities".
According to Justice Sawant report, Ganpatrao Avati, a close associate of Hazare, had asked for an "amount of Rs 25,000 to process" an application.
It thus infers "even those activists who were nearer to Shri Hazare were indulging in corruption and demanding money from the supplicants who came for relief from Shri Hazare".
According to this report, when Anna Hazare was asked about this, he said that when he had asked Avati about this allegation, the latter (Avati) had denied it.
The report suggests several other charges of illegality, corruption and maladministration.
Against Hind Swaraj Trust:
p 269 -- illegalities and maladministration in land transactions
p 271 -- illegal utilisation of the trust's funds
Against Sant Yadavbaba Shikshan Prasarak Mandal:
p 281 -- "Committed illegalities". Its audited accounts for 1982 to 1994 were filed in 1995 and for 1995 to 2002 in 2003. These are 'punishable' illegalities.
p 285 -- legal requirement flouted from 1985 at least till 2005 of submission of the annual budget to the charity commissioner
p 297 -- did not list all its properties as legally required to the charity commissioner
p 298-99 -- did not have its accounts in scheduled banks as required by the law, it advanced a loan that was illegal, it spent money on objects outside its charter.
p 304 -- maladministration
p 305 -- illegalities in regard to a fixed deposit
Against Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Andolan Trust:
p 316 -- registered contrary to law
p 319-21 -- at least since 1998 onwards to 2005 the trust was not functioning legally
p 323 -- from 10/11/2001 the accounts were not maintained as per the rules of the trust
p 323 -- donations collected in the name of the trust were not properly receipted nor were accounted for
p 326 -- audited accounts were not submitted to the charity
commissioner for 1998-2002
p 327 -- illegal cash transactions were made
p 329-30 -- Hazare made key appointments illegally, and these appointees 'lost' money collected by them
p 359-61 -- 'activists' close to Hazare took bribes from supplicants to Hazare, and Hazare did not act against these 'activists'
Against Krishna Pani Puravatha Yojana Sahakari Sanstha:
p 363 -- Hazare a member when not eligible to be one.
p 365 -- the commission summarized Hazare's illegality/corruption/ maladministration.
Interestingly Digvijaya Singh in an interview referred to the Sawant report and said, "It (the committee's findings on Hazare) has come as a rude shock to me."
The inquiry had been conducted following allegations of corruption against Hazare by then state minister for food and civil supplies Suresh Jain. Justice Sawant found that Rs 2.2 lakh had been withdrawn from the trust funds for Hazare's birthday celebrations.
This was clearly illegal, Sawant noted in his report. The report criticised the trust for setting apart nearly 11 acres of land in favour of the zilla parishad without the permission of the charity commissioner and termed the move as a case of maladministration.
Yet another irregularity pertained to the misappropriation of the sum of Rs 46,374, which was originally meant for promoting secular education. The money was used instead on the renovation of a temple.
The most stringent indictment, though, was reserved for Hazare's Bhrashtachar Virodhi Janandolan Trust.
The report pointed out that the trust's accounts were not being maintained according to rules.
The question now doing the rounds is whether the Congress' counter-offensive has come too late.
Anna Hazare has gathered together a huge following of people who are sick of corruption and are willing to be led by anyone who looks 'half-way credible.'
The fact that Hazare has been able to strike that chord, after having been continuously on television screens for over five days, makes the job of the government and the Congress of discrediting him much more difficult.
In fact, Congress is nervous because Anna Hazare has announced his plan to travel to Uttar Pradesh, which will go for assembly elections next year.
Justice Sawant has nowhere indicted Anna for personal corruption but Congress is completely silent on it. It's pushing forward 'irregularities' of the managers of the trusts as the 'corruption of Anna Hazare.'