New Delhi: Anna Hazare’s campaign against corruption received unexpected support from Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, signalling that the government may move sooner than expected to broker a compromise to end a rapidly snowballing agitation across several cities in the country.
Gandhi’s promise to Hazare that his cause would receive the “government’s full attention” came after the Centre reached out with two rounds of talks on the third day of the hunger strike. However, there was no headway after the government, represented by telecom minister Kapil Sibal, refused to concede to all the demands.
A key demand by Hazare, who has been on a fast at Jantar Mantar in Delhi since Tuesday, has been the formation of a joint committee that would include 50% representation from civil society to draft a Jan Lokpal Bill, an alternative to the Lokpal Bill, which has been unsuccessfully tabled eight times over the last 42 years in Parliament.
Sibal, after his talks with Hazare’s supporters, told reporters that both sides had “agreed on almost all issues” except two—issuing an official notification to form a committee to study the Lokpal Bill and making Hazare its chairman.
He also said the government was committed to forming the panel before 13 May and that the Bill will be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament.
The two sides are expected to have a third round of talks on Friday.
Meanwhile, Hazare’s supporters in other cities such as Mumbai and Hyderabad began to organize candle-light marches in his support.
Though Hazare and his supporters have said his movement against corruption is apolitical, opposition political parties have begun to use the fast to attack the Congress, which heads the United Progressive Alliance government, amid key assembly elections in the states of Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala and Assam.
Sushma Swaraj, Bharatiya Janata Party lawmaker and leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, while extending support to Hazare’s cause, tweeted, “We are with him in his crusade against corruption.” She has also demanded the government convene an all-party meeting to discuss the “issue”.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) also issued a statement, saying Hazare’s fast “highlights the need” of bringing an “effective Lokpal legislation”.
Communist Party of India general secretary A.B. Bardhan also expressed “full support” to Hazare’s fast, but maintained that it will not “directly intervene” as a political party.
Subrata Mukherjee, retired professor of political science, University of Delhi, terms the protest and its response as an effect called a “crisis of belief structure”. He added that it happens when “an average man feels helpless that the entire system is not functioning at all.”
Mukherjee said that it has become a middle-class phenomenon where corruption “has become a discussion” in every middle-class household. “It is the reflection of the collapse of normal channels of democratic process and rectification,” he added.
On the third day of his fast on Thursday, Hazare told the media that the Lokpal Bill was needed to put the corrupt behind bars. “The government can go its way, we will go our way,” he said.
Meanwhile, cyber support for the veteran increased manifold.
The Google timeline showed a peak in search results for Hazare.
PTIcontributed to this story.