Despite a lower-than-expected turnout on the MMRDA ground at the Bandra-Kurla Complex in Mumbai, social activist Anna Hazare launched his three-day fast with vigour, reiterating his willingness to sacrifice his life for a stronger Lokpal Bill.
“I want to remind the parliamentarians that they are meant to serve us, not loot us... now the public has woken up and we demand a strong Lokpall Bill so that the country can get freedom from corruption even if we have to sacrifice our life for it,” he told a gathering of nearly 10,000 people.
“After the agitation on the Ramlila Maidan, the Prime Minister promised me that the Bill will be a strong and effective tool against corruption, but the entire country has been cheated. They have no intention to pass a strong Lokpal Bill, because they fear that their own dark deeds will come under scrutiny.”
Mr. Hazare appealed to people to join the jail bharo andolan after the fast.
“Goons and criminals are entering politics … We have to ensure that our law-making bodies remain sacred. We will fight for the ‘right to reject' so that the voter has the right to say that all the candidates are corrupt or undeserving and if the voter decides to cancel the election, all the candidates will be disqualified.”
Mr. Hazare vowed to campaign against the Congress in State elections scheduled early next year and in the general election, if the Bill that is ultimately passed fails to win his approval.
“Bigger than Parliament in Delhi is the Parliament of people... But bigger than both is the Parliament of the village. Voters of poll-bound States must punish the government for betraying the Lokpal Bill.”
Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal said the government was consciously trying to distract the public by raising unnecessary issues as they were not honest in their intentions to give the people a strong Lokpal Bill.
Earlier, Mr. Hazare kicked off his protest from the Juhu beach here in the morning.
The cheering crowd calmed down as Mr. Hazare sat meditating before the Mahatma Gandhi's statue for a few minutes. He then mounted a decorated open truck with his associates for the rally to the MMRDA ground.
Only a few hundred people turned up at the beach. But as the rally moved to the MMRDA ground, people lined up on both sides of the road and waved at him.
Justice (retired) Santosh Hegde flew down from Mangalore to extend his support. “I am completely with Anna on the demand for a strong Lokpal Bill. In fact, there is no need for additional infrastructure. The Lokpal can use the existing machinery. All that the institution requires is an independent investigating agency that is not under the control of the government.”
Mr. Hegde rejected the government's argument that there should be no parallel discussion outside Parliament once the Bill is introduced in the House. “We are equal to parliamentarians. Today, the people who are responsible for the Constitution have no voice. We have to discuss our views about the correctness of the Bill,” he told The Hindu.
Mr. Hazare's motorcade was stopped by 15-20 members of the Republican Party of India (Athawale). They waved black flags at him during his journey.
“We are with Anna for weeding out corruption. But the Lokpal should not break the constitutional framework,” RPI president Ramdas Athawale told TheHindu.