Bolstered by growing support from citizens, who are turning up in large numbers at Jantar Mantar here, anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare, on the second day of his fast, stuck to his demand for a joint committee to draft the Lokpal Bill.
While stressing that he was not averse to talking to the UPA government, Mr. Hazare, in a strongly worded letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said on Wednesday: “Tell me a single meeting you called and we did not come? We believe in dialogue and engagement. Kindly do not mislead the country by saying that we are shunning dialogue.”
Responding to a charge by some Congress leaders that he was an “RSS agent,” Mr. Hazare said, “Those who wear coloured glasses see everything in one colour.”
In his letter to the Prime Minister, Mr. Hazare said: “Kindly stop finding faults and suspecting conspiracies in our movement. Even if there were, it does not absolve you of your responsibilities to stop corruption.”
Asking what had stopped the country from creating an effective anti-corruption system in the past 60 years, the veteran social activist ridiculed the “process initiated” by the government for the Lokpal Bill. He said some of the members of the Group of Ministers vetting the Bill “would have been behind bars” had there been a strong anti-corruption Bill in place.
Mr. Hazare took exception to Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily's office reportedly losing a copy of the Jan Lokpal Bill his representatives had given. “This is the seriousness with which the government has dealt with the Jan Lokpal Bill.”
Meanwhile, over 150 people including Gandhians, students, retired citizens and social activists have joined Mr. Hazare in his hunger strike. A team comprising a doctor and paramedical staff is present at the venue full time. On the second day of the fast, a few persons had to be administered intravenous fluids after they collapsed.
On seeing the former Haryana Chief Minister, Om Prakash Chautala gheraoed and hounded back to his car with shouts of “Go back, Go back,” the social activist counselled the agitated youth to follow Gandhian methods. Exhorting them to control their anger, Mr. Hazare said there was much strength in “ahimsa.”
Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh and the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Uma Bharti, were also turned away.
“This is the next struggle for our independence. Even though the British have left, only the colour of the rulers' skin has changed, nothing else has,” said Mr. Hazare, who also drew parallels between his struggle and Jayaprakash Narayan's call for a “Total Revolution” in the 1970s. He urged people to shed their political loyalties and join the anti-corruption campaign.
Responding to Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar's willingness to quit the Sub-Committee of the GoM drafting the anti-corruption Bill, Mr. Hazare said changing a Minister would not change anything. “In the present dispensation another like him will replace him. It is the system that has to change.”
Responding to the Congress offer to table the Bill during the monsoon session of Parliament, Mr. Hazare said he had no objection to it: “But then what will be the content of the Bill?” He emphasised that if a joint committee was formed to draft the Bill, it should also have UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi as a member to ensure its effectiveness.