In an indication that the ‘India Against Corruption’ movement is leaning towards formation of a political alternative, Team Anna members Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi called on supporters of its anti-corruption movement to prepare for a long struggle ahead culminating in the 2014 general elections. With the government yet to open any communication channels with IAC, anti-graft activist Anna Hazare said he would not talk to any Ministers — not even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — until his demands were met.
Immediately after a speech by political commentator Yogendra Yadav exhorting team member Arvind Kejriwal to give up his fast and form a political alternative to the existing mainstream political parties, Mr. Bhushan in his address said: “Like Yogendra Yadav said, it is time for an alternative politics to shape up. Power should return to the hands of the people. I agree with Yogendra Yadav that Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodhia and Gopal Rai should give up their fast. Their lives are very valuable and are needed to form an alternative political forum.”
Mr. Hazare said he was constantly being asked three questions: what if the government did not negotiate with his team, till when would the struggle continue, and had the movement lost its way. “I will not speak to the Ministers or their representatives or to the Prime Minister again until our demand for a strong Lokpal Bill is addressed. This movement will continue till politics is cleaned up. Our struggle has not lost its way — I am clear that if the Jan Lokpal Bill is passed at least 70 per cent of the corruption will end.” He also threatened to return his Padma Vibhushan.
Earlier in the day, both Mr. Hazare, who has been fasting for three days, and Mr. Kejriwal, who was on the seventh day of his fast, apologised for the attack on mediapersons late on Monday night by alleged IAC supporters. Mr. Hazare also warned that he would call off his fast if such an incident occurred again.
‘Society will speak up’
Dr. Yadav said: “Everyone is worried about the health of those fasting, but neither the ruling nor opposition parties will address your demands. What will happen to this movement, you will ask? The government is not this country. India is very big; and this government is small in comparison. It is this country’s tradition that when the king and the government do not respond, society will speak up. People representing society have come and will keep coming to join your struggle. Arvind, Manish and Gopal — your lives are too valuable to sacrifice here. There is a bigger job for you. I foresee a deluge that will wash away all the dirt in our politics today and it is your job to provide leadership to this alternative.”
Doctors from the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital advised Mr. Kejriwal and Mr. Rai to give up their fast as their vitals had deteriorated. Mr. Kejriwal said he had come prepared to sacrifice his life and not go to a hospital.