Threatens bigger agitation if roles of 14 Ministers are not investigated
Anna Hazare on Sunday returned to Jantar Mantar here, the scene of his five-day hunger strike last April, for a daylong token fast to protest against the murder of several whistle-blowers and denial of justice to their families.
Addressing his supporters, the social activist warned the UPA government of defeat in the next general elections if a strong anti-corruption law was not passed.
Mr. Hazare said he would return with a more powerful agitation in August if the roles of the 14 Union Cabinet Ministers, named by Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal as facing allegations of corruption, were not investigated. He brushed aside worries about his health, stating that he was not “afraid of dying for the country.”
Targeting the 14 Ministers with a name and shame approach, Mr. Kejriwal had said that if the Lokpal became a reality, FIRs would be registered against all of them and at least a few would find themselves in jail.
Responding to the privilege notice against him for defaming MPs, Mr. Kejriwal said it was the “high commands” of various parties which had given ticket to tainted MPs who had insulted Parliament.
The 14 Ministers whom Mr. Kejriwal named along with the allegations against them, while repeatedly stressing that these were allegations that had appeared in the news media, are P. Chidambaram, Ajit Singh, Farooq Abdullah, G.K. Vasan, Kamal Nath, Kapil Sibal, Sharad Pawar, Sriprakash Jaiswal, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Vilasrao Deshmukh, M.K. Azhagiri, Virbhadra Singh, S.M. Krishna, and Praful Patel.
Mr. Hazare said a “Right to Reject” option should be given to the electorate to ignore candidates put up by political parties. He conceded that Team Anna's earlier demand for “Right to Recall” of elected representatives was an issue to be taken up later.
Stressing his demand for more powers to Gram Sabhas to resist forcible acquisition of village land, Mr. Hazare said the lot of farmers had worsened while middlemen continued to thrive. Mr. Hazare first visited Raj Ghat before proceeding to sit on fast at Jantar Mantar.
Family members of several whistle-blowers were seated close to Mr. Hazare's pandal and many of them, including the uncle of the slain IPS officer, Narinder Kumar, came forward to address Anna supporters. All of them hoped that a strong Lokpal would give them justice.
Another Team Anna member Kiran Bedi said, “Right now the BJP and the Left parties want the CBI to be part of the Lokpal. A weak Lokpal Bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha. We have to stay alert to the Bill's fate in the Rajya Sabha. If the Upper House also passes a weak Bill, we will have a long fight ahead of us. We will have to prepare for the general elections in 2014. We will have to go to our homes, neighbourhood, villages, and cities, to tell people to vote for candidates who support a strong Lokpal.”
The former Union Minister and senior advocate, Shanti Bhushan, said the support garnered by Mr. Hazare's campaign since January 30, 2011, when India Against Corruption held a rally on Ramlila Maidan reminded him of the people's protest led by Jayaprakash Narayan against Indira Gandhi's government in the mid-1970s.
Another Team Anna member and former Supreme Court judge, Santosh Hegde, who had distanced himself from several Team Anna decisions, reiterated that he was not leaving Mr. Hazare's anti-corruption campaign.