Pushing aside the December debacle activist Anna Hazare returned in full force to Jantar Mantar on Sunday, setting an August deadline for the government to file cases against its 14 “corrupt” Cabinet ministers. Energized by the surging crowd at his day-long fast, Team Anna also demanded investigation and trial against over 1,300 elected representatives (MPs and MLAs) who are facing criminal charges to be completed within the next six months.
Hazare, who had been battling ill health for over two months, looked sharp and combined the attack against politicians of all hues, with his earthy wit that was met with much gusto and applause.
“FIRs must be registered against the corrupt (Union) ministers by August or there will be ‘jail bharo’ agitation across the country. We have to be ready for this. A date will be announced later. I will travel across the country after the session ends on May 15 and decide a date,” Hazare said.
The floundering Lokpal agitation was accompanied by a pincer attack on politicians irrespective of their ideology and set the agenda for a numerically weak government. Significantly, the activists also appeared to overlook reservations against Baba Ramdev’s alleged Hindutva links to announce unconditional support for his black money campaign realizing that their appeal to the middle-class could be strengthened with the mass appeal that Ramdev commanded over north India.
In their provocative speeches Team Anna members named nearly 25 politicians alleging that there were complaints of corruption against them and strong anti-corruption laws or protection could not be expected from such polity. Hazare also appeared to be sensitive to the charge that the group had “insulted” Parliament taking the opportunity to emphasis that it was the political representatives with dubious antecedents who had defamed the House.
Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal, who is already battling three privilege notices for calling MPs “murderers, rapists” appeared defiant listing out 14 “corrupt” cabinet ministers. He argued that allegations against these ministers had been raised in newspapers and TV expose and he had no direct evidence of the wrong-doing but the allegations should be investigated nonetheless.
Among those named included P Chidambaram, Ajit Singh, Farooz Abdullah, G K Vasan, Kamal Nath, Kapil Sibal, Sharad Pawar, Sriprakash Jaiswal, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Vilasrao Deshmukh, M K Alagiri, Virbhadra Singh, S M Krishna and Praful Patel. Naming MPs and CMs from across the political spectrum Kejriwal said that there were allegations of corruption against B S Yeddyuarappa, J Jayalalithaa, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati. TOI does not subscribe to these charges.
Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi attacked Team Anna for leveling baseless charges and said they were welcome to file cases if they had any proof.
Hazare, whose last hunger strike in Mumbai in end-December flopped due to a low turn-out, also put the government on notice on Lokpal issue stressing that the agitation was by no means over. “Bring Jan Lokpal or go out of power in 2014 general elections,” Hazare said. “We will show what is the power of Jan Lokpal Bill. I am a fakir (saint). I will show them how much strength a ‘fakir’ like me has,” he said.
Team Anna’s new game plan was revealed through a series of speeches by Hazare, Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Shanti Bhushan towards the end of the fast.
Bedi then talked about “getting ready for the fight” during Delhi polls next year followed by Bhushan who said the government fears passing of a strong Lokpal Bill as they don’t want to have their own ministers in jail.
Before starting his fast, Hazare, said many people have sacrificed their lives while fighting corruption and the government has not conducted any probe despite some incidents which happened three years ago. “Their (whistleblowers’) mothers, their children, their fathers, their wives are crying for justice. But this government has gone dumb and deaf. It is not listening to the cries of people. This government neither has any intention nor does it have any political will to bring a strong Lokpal Bill. We will not relent. We will have to keep struggling. I am confident that one day they will have to bring the Jan Lokpal Bill,” said Hazare.
Asking his supporters to keep up the pressure on the government, he said people of the country have woken up and they will not allow corrupt politicians to “loot” the resources anymore.
“We will have to bring real democracy in the country by ensuring rights of the common people who are supreme and send their representatives to Parliament and state legislatures,” he said.
Hazare said from now onwards his supporters will work in cooperation with Baba Ramdev’s movement against black money to wipe out corruption in the country.