In their strongest attack so far on social activist Anna Hazare, the government and the Congress party on Sunday questioned his credentials as an anti-corruption campaigner and charged him with challenging the Constitution and undermining the authority of Parliament.The attack came a day after Hazare had accused Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of "snatching away" the people’s independence by refusing to accept his team’s version of the lokpal bill. Hazare had wondered "with what face" the PM would unfurl the national tricolour on Independence Day.
Led by party veteran and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, the Congress made it clear that Hazare had lost his moral high ground as the management of his trusts were ripped apart by the justice PB Sawant Commission in September 2003.
Hazare hit back immediately, daring the government to probe the charges against him. “I want the government to lodge an FIR against me and conduct an inquiry. I will not end my fast till the allegations against me are probed,” he said.
The BJP came out in support of Hazare and charged the government with trying to create an emergency-like situation by "muzzling the voices of protest in the country".
The government rejected the argument that it was crushing Hazare’s constitutional rights by not allowing him to protest at a venue of his choice.
"The right to protest does not mean the right to protest at your choice. There is no right to protest at a place of your choice and convenience,” telecom minister Kapil Sibal said.
Speaking in Kolkata, Mukherjee said Hazare and his team were challenging the Constitution and the authority Parliament and that this was “not acceptable”.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said Hazare himself was involved in corruption. “He is steeped in corruption from head to toe. This has been proved by the justice Sawant Commission. It found that Anna runs several NGOs and money was spent illegally for his birthday celebration,” Tewari said.