New Delhi: The government ceded more ground to anti-corruption campaigners on Friday, but a formal agreement eluded the two sides, ensuring that Anna Hazare’s fast went into a fifth day.
After a meeting between the government and his associates in the evening, Hazare announced at Jantar Mantar that the activists would await the final proposal from the government due on Saturday. “My fast will continue till then,” he added.
At present, there are two unresolved issues. One is the leadership of the joint committee, with equal representation from civil society, to draft a Lokpal Bill to combat corruption. The second issue is whether the government would comply with the demand of the activists and issue a formal government notification.
The Lokpal Bill is a proposed legislation that can inquire into allegations of corruption against public functionaries by establishing the institution of the Lokpal. Civil society activists have drafted an alternative Bill called the Jan Lokpal Bill.
Through the day there was a gradual build-up of expectations after a series of internal meetings within the government indicated the United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) willingness to broker a deal and end the face-off with Hazare, especially since the growing support for the movement was beginning to worry the Congress, preoccupied with key poll campaigns in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam.
At the same time, growing support for the activists, especially after more celebrities joined the agitation, resulted in adding to the pressure that they were able to exert on the government. The footfalls at Jantar Mantar were the most in the last four days.
Earlier on Friday morning, Congress president Sonia Gandhi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the matter, even while finance minister Pranab Mukherjee made a fresh appeal to Hazare to give up his fast. Singh also held two rounds of meetings on Friday with senior ministers to discuss the stalemate and also briefed President Pratibha Patil on the government’s efforts to resolve the impasse. Speaking at a press briefing on Friday, Congress party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi sought to mitigate political damage from the agitation led by Hazare. “The Congress party stands for the crusade against corruption,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hazare’s supporters in Mumbai on Friday held a protest and candle-light march near Gateway of India.
The opposition also continued to increase political pressure on the government.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, while addressing an election rally in Assam, said: “It is a matter of shame for us before the world that Anna Hazare had to take the ultimate step of launching a fast-unto-death to protest against deep-rooted corruption in the world’s largest democratic government.”
PTI contributed to this story.