New Delhi: As his fast-unto-death on the Lokpal issue entered the third day, Gandhian Anna Hazare on Thursday stuck to the demand for a joint committee of civil society members and government representatives to draft a strong Lokpal Bill even as he rejected allegations that he was backed by Sangh Parivar.
72-year-old Hazare, who has lost 1.5 kg in the past three days, said there was no need for anyone to worry about his health as he can go with the fast for another seven days. He is in good shape though there has been a rise in his blood pressure and he is feeling weak, his associates said.
Social activist Anna Hazare rests during a ‘fast-unto-death’ campaign in New Delhi. Photo: Reuters
Hazare said he was not averse to dialogue but such discussions should take place with those who have power to take decisions. “When did we say no to dialogue. Dialogue should take place with those who have power to take decisions, whether (Congress chief) Sonia Gandhi or Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh),” he said.
Hazare was of the view that there was no point in talking to any committee which has no power to take major decisions. “They cannot take major decisions,” he said in an apparent reference to the Group of Ministers on corruption issue.
Hazare’s protest has led to the resignation of agriculture minister Sharad Pawar from the Group of Ministers on corruption after the Gandhian took potshots at him.
Social activist Swami Agnivesh said the government was in informal talks with them.
Addressing a gathering of his followers and school students at the Jantar Mantar dharna site here, Hazare rejected allegations that he was aligned with BJP and RSS and said he has nothing to do with them.
“I have been working for the society for long time. For the past 35 years, I have not gone home. I have three brothers and I don’t know the names of their children. I don’t have any bank balance. I ask people to put Rs 5 or Rs 10 in our carry bag.
“Through this, I have kept myself fighting for the public. What have I to do with Congress or BJP? The country which is a gold chest has drowned in dismay because of those who ran the country,” Hazare said, adding some people are still criticizing him.
“If they had done so much, why is it that the country is still in a mess?” he asked.
He said a Congress spokesperson has said that he was treading a wrong path by taking to hunger strike. He said he wanted to tell him that even before the spokesperson was born, Mahatma Gandhi had gone forward with civil disobedience movement.
“Public takes to satyagraha when all the doors are shut. If he says that this is wrong, does he mean to say that people should continue to suffer. Public will have to protest when there is a threat to their independence,” he said.
He also apologized to Hindutva leader Uma Bharti as his supporters shouted out her and disallowed her to be part of the dharna.
“I apologize to her. Some wrong things have happened. Everybody has the right to come and sit here. Nobody can say no that. But we are not allowing anybody to sit on the dais as some people may use it to take mileage out of it,” he said.
Hazare said the leaders have forgotten the ideals and sacrifice of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. “Except for a few, the leaders have become traitors. They have forgotten the ideals of great leaders,” he said.
The activist said he does not fear death because he has kept the ideals of these great leaders close to his heart.
“Development has to be there. We are not against development. We have to bring the proportion of corruption to its lowest,” he said, adding political parties should ensure that only people with impeccable integrity should be given tickets to contest elections.
Expressing concern about the decline in child sex ration and female foeticide, he said the political leaders were not bothered about such issues. “After some time, our boys will not be able to get married. The leaders don’t think about such issues.”
Taking potshots at politicians for their “hunger for power”, he said they want themselves to be taken to the crematorium in chairs (seat of power).
Addressing the students of various city schools who came to support his struggle, he said the future is with youngsters and they have to strive hard to ensure the hard work of great leaders should not go waste.
“They have weathered storms to build the nation. You have to keep it intact. In Vietnam or Japan, it was the youth who build the country from rubbles after great troubles,” he told the students who cheered him with chants of ‘Vande Mataram’.
The activist is demanding enactment of Jan Lokpal Bill as the legislation proposed by the government was not adequate and lacked teeth. He has maintained that a joint committee, comprising representatives of the government and civil society, should be set up to firm up the Bill.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had on Wednesday discussed with some Cabinet colleagues the issue after which indications emerged that one or two ministers could be nominated to talk to the activist.
The general sense at the informal confabulations was that there was a need to defuse the situation that had arisen due to the fast-unto-death campaign launched on Tuesday which is getting support from the increasing number of people.
Asked if Hazare has been contacted by any one from the government, an aide of the activist said, “As of now we have not received any intimation from the government, we have read reports in this regard in the media only”.
Since the fast started on Tuesday, people from all walks of life including students, senior citizens, actors, executives and activists are converging at the Jantar Mantar, the hotspot of protests in the capital, to lend support to the movement.