Anna set for fast, political class dubs him ‘impatient’

Mumbai/New Delhi: Anna Hazare Monday prepared to take on the UPA government over his insistence for a strong Lokpal with a three-day hunger strike in Mumbai starting Tuesday but he came under attack from the political class which dubbed him impatient and his protest premature.

The 74-year-old activist Monday evening reached Mumbai, ahead of his protest at the sprawling MMRDA ground.

Before leaving his village Ralegan-Siddhi for his fourth hunger strike this year to bring about an effective legislation to combat corruption, a defiant Hazare accused the government of insincerity in the war against graft and pledged to later take his campaign to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s residence.

“We are prepared to die,” he said.

But even as Team Anna took pains to clarify that it too opposed communalism and respected parliament, the Congress went on the offensive vis-a-vis the former army man-turned-activist.

Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi called him ‘impatient’ while Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla asked him to leave the issue of Lokpal to parliament’s wisdom.

Both Alvi and Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee insisted that the Lokpal bill will be passed in the extended winter session of parliament coinciding with Hazare’s fast and that only parliament could enact laws.

Asked about the plan to protest outside residences of MPs, including Sonia Gandhi, Rizvi said they had a constitutional right to protest but the move was unfortunate. “Annaji is impatient,” he said.

Added Fiannce Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the government’s trouble-shooter: “We know there are few (sticking) points, but it is for parliament to decide what will be the final shape of the legislation.”

Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan also turned against Anna, accusing his team of ‘mobocracy’. It was the most strident attack on Anna since his ally Lalu Prasad took him on in parliament last week.

None of this had any impact on Hazare. His confidante Arvind Kejriwal sought to clear the air of charges that Anna had links with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).

“Communalism is a bigger danger. We have said repeatedly that we are totally against communalism,” he said, after talks with Muslim leaders of Mumbai.

“Corruption does not discriminate between Hindus and Muslims. Corruption affects all communities. A corrupt officer is neither Hindu nor Muslim, he is corrupt,” Kejriwal said.

He added that the Hazare movement was not ranged against parliament.

“It is the government that has betrayed the country, betrayed parliament. We appeal to parliament with folded hands to pass a good Lokpal bill.”

Hazare echoed the theme: “Our movement is not against any party or individual. We have been doing this (fighting corruption) for 25 years.”

“This is not against any political party. This movement is for change. We have nothing to do with any political party.”

In Ranchi, Union Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai hit out at Hazare.

“(He) is getting exposed. Initially we believed he was fighting against corruption. His recent statements against Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi have exposed him.”

In Mumbai, hundreds gave final touches to the fast site where a giant stage has come up to accommodate Hazare. India Against Corruption members expect thousands to turn up all three days.

A simultaneous day-long hunger strike would be observed on all three days at Delhi’s Ramlila ground where Hazare’s 12-day fast in August ignited passions and stunned the government.

Hazare’s first hunger strike in April put Lokpal on the national agenda like never before.