New Delhi: Anna Hazare ended his fast after 13 days on Sunday after Parliament acted on public pressure and passed a resolution accepting the social activist’s three key demands to strengthen an anti-graft legislation.
Hazare, who described the development as a “partial victory”, pledged to focus next on poll reforms, indicating this was a temporary respite for the government.
The Lokpal legislation was presented in early August, but activists slammed the draft version as “toothless” because the Prime Minister and judges were exempt from probes.
Celebration time: Supporters of Anna Hazare at India Gate in New Delhi on Sunday. Photo by Vijay Verma / PTI.
Hazare had demanded that the Bill included bringing the lower bureaucracy under a proposed corruption agency’s authority, ensured similar agencies at a state level, and created a citizen’s charter.
In calling off the hunger strike, his second this year, the veteran activist fired a warning shot at lawmakers and a weary government, threatening to restart his agitation should Parliament renege on its promises.
“What has really ended today is the stand-off between the government and Hazare’s team. What is going to begin is the making of the law that will fight corruption,” said Balveer Arora, former head of the political science department at Jawaharlal Nehru University. “The way the process has unfolded, there was a lot of hard bargaining, which is a part of political processes. What was different was that the government was bargaining with non-political actors.”
On Saturday, when Parliament was convened specially to discuss the country’s situation in the light of Hazare’s hunger strike, members across political parties called for a solution within the framework of the Constitution.
“We will not allow this temple (of democracy) to fall,” Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad said.
D. Raja of of the Communist Party of India said Parliament had given due consideration to the issues raised by Hazare.
“Now it is only Parliament which will have to go through the lawmaking process. Parliament is supreme and lawmaking is its exclusive domain,” Raja said. “Everyone should respect that.”
Hazare on Sunday underlined the importance of people power as he thanked thousands of his cheering supporters.
“I want to thank everyone. The acceptance of three key issues in the Jan Lokpal Bill is the victory of all countrymen, of all of you who are present here,” Hazare said minutes after breaking his fast by having coconut water and honey given by two children.
“Corruption has increased today because of centralization of power,” he said. “True, democracy will come only from decentralization of power, which will in turn come from power reaching the hands of the people.”
Next on his agenda will be electoral reforms, including the right to reject and the right to recall, the activist said, warning of more protests in the future. “Corruption will reduce only when the election system changes... Tomorrow, even if they (government) agree to the entire Jan Lokpal Bill, we are not going to keep quiet; we will continue to agitate till a change comes...”
Hazare broke his fast a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote a letter to him, delivered to the activist by cabinet minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.
“Parliament has also resolved to send today’s proceedings to the department-related standing committee for its perusal while formulating its recommendations,” Singh said in the letter.
The Prime Minister on Sunday briefed President Pratibha Patil on the development.
The Congress party described the development as an “historic occasion because it is a win-win situation for Indian democracy and for all stakeholders”.
“We have to move away from binary win-loss equations,” party spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said when asked whether the government had “bowed down” under pressure from civil society.
Meanwhile, the Ramlila ground on Sunday saw supporters of Hazare lining up to the venue since early morning.
“The biggest achievement of this movement by far has been that it has created a political awakening among the youth; even those who earlier stayed away political discussions came forward in support,” said Dharam Singh, who runs a non-governmental organization and has been at the Ramlila ground since last Monday.
Mint’s Elizabeth Roche, PTI and Reuters contributed to this story.