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How will the Congress counter the BJP 'propaganda'?

June 08, 2011 01:13 IST

Like his mother Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi is also said to be worked up about Baba Ramdev and the manner in which the government handled the issue, which led to the Bharatiya Janata Party getting a handle with which to beat the government with.

Sources say that the day after Ramdev was lifted from Delhi and escorted to Dehradun, Rahul met senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee to discuss with him the political situation in the country.

A source said that on Monday, Rahul had a over 40-minute meeting with Mukherjee where they had a 'serious' discussion, and covered a great deal of ground on the Ramdev operation, the manner in which the BJP was fanning the situation, what should be the approach of the party and the government, how the BJP and other forces should be countered and how the Congress should be activated on this issue.

A senior leader said that Rahul is known to discuss key political issues with Pranabda whenever the situation demands because of the latter's seniority and experience.

Mukherjee is seen to be a person with the correct political instincts. It's alleged that the prime minister was convinced that the situation could be salvaged through dialogue and he had insisted that Ramdev should not be arrested. Sources in the party also say that PM had asked Mukherjee to go to the airport.

A source said that the day after the meeting with Rahul, Mukherjee is learnt to have sent the All India Congress Committee media department Chairman Janardhan Dwivedi a long note on how the Congress should counter the BJP propaganda, and how the Congress should handle the situation.

Sources say it has been a matter of worry that the party and the government have been speaking in different voices, that the party has been divided on several issues, and perceptions giving the impression that the senior leadership has been in a state of total confusion.

Congress Working Committee member Anil Shastri's tweet criticising the police action against Ramdev has not gone down too well with the party leadership, with Dwivedi calling Shastri for an explanation.

Sources said that till as late as Sunday evening, senior leaders were giving a spin to the Ramdev story, by feeding the media with the line that the party had nothing to do with it and that it was a government initiative.

It was only after the Sunday evening meeting convened by Sonia Gandhi at her residence where top ministers and AICC general secretaries were present, that the confusion dissipated.

The leaders emerged from 10 Janpath with the clear message that the Congress president had pushed for tough action against Ramdev and that she was deeply upset and angry at the spectacle of four senior ministers going to the airport, which looked like as though they had gone to receive him there.

Congress perceived the Ramdev show as the show of the BJP-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its cadres, plus Vishwa Hindu Parishand leader Sadhvi Rithambara sharing a dias with Ramdev is said to have further infuriated an already irate Sonia Gandhi.

A source said that only after she expressed her anger, the party took the decision to expose Ramdev's letter to the government, assuring that he would break the fast in the next three days.

It is learnt that while the government has enough information on Ramdev's money, business and financial dealings, various agencies are already on the job of stitching together the nitty-gritties of his business empire, and the role of his aide Balkrishnan who is a director in around 30 companies, most of which have links with Baba's trusts, and the companies owned by these trusts.

The fact that he is a Nepali citizen, has three passports and maybe even has a criminal background, are some of the issues which are being investigated further.

A source said that in the last three days since he was missing after the crackdown at Ramlila grounds, he is learnt to have been in touch with top lawyers, to put together the right line of defence and argument before the media.

Renu Mittal in New Delhi