After 12 days of drama, diatribe and dialogue, social activist Anna Hazare announced the withdrawal of his fast that started on August 16, as thousands cheered at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan, and many more hailed the ‘victory’ across the country.
Hazare has lost seven kg as he survived only on water for 300 hours, but showed little signs of crumbling.
The relatively unknown social worker from Maharashtra captured the imagination of large parts of India, as people marched onto the streets in a rare show of sustained support, even calling in comparisons with Mahatma Gandhi.
The 74-year-old Hazare’s demands for a stronger anti-corruption institution of lokpal also led to a deadlock between him and the government, since several of his demands conflicted with constitutional provisions and appeared impracticably ambitious.
On Saturday, a unanimous resolution of both houses of Parliament that expressed solidarity with Hazare’s three core demands regarding the proposed lokpal led to his announcing the end of his fast.
“Parliament has spoken, will of Parliament is will of the people,” said prime minister Manmohan Singh.
“I congratulate all members of Parliament,” Hazare said at Ramlila Maidan, where union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh read out a letter from the PM to the activist.
Deshmukh and other government representatives stood close to Hazare to sing the national anthem, in stark contrast to the hostile exchanges between the two sides in the initial days.
In a display of Indian democracy’s ability to accommodate a million mutinies, parliamentarians cutting across party lines empathised with Hazare’s intent while underscoring the primacy of constitution and parliamentary procedure. “The need for probity must coexist with constitutionalism,” Arun Jaitley, leader of opposition said in Rajya Sabha. Quote unquote
Jaitley and union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee worked closely to finalise the resolution that meets this two-pronged approach.
In the gesture of taking the up the issue for debate even while the Lokpal Bill is being examined by a parliamentary standing committee, the government and opposition parties showed extraordinary flexibility. At the same time they ensured that the process of Parliament continues its normal course, by forwarding the entire proceedings of the debate to the standing committee for “consideration and appropriate action.” Arvind Kejriwal, an Anna aide, said the demands of the activists would now be pursued with the standing committee.
Over several rounds of negotiations, the differences between Team Anna and the government were narrowed down to three issues by Thursday — the inclusion of all bureaucrats under the ambit of the lokpal as opposed to restricting it to corruption in higher places; constitution of state level lokayuktas under the proposed central law that many argued would impinge on the federal character of India; and the demand that inefficient delivery of government services be deemed corruption.
Parliament agreed “in principle” to all the three demands — implying the mechanism of implementation of these would be subject to confirmation with the constitution. “It’s only a half a victory for us,” Hazare conceded.
Hazare team indeed reconciled their initial demands to tune with the constraints of the constitution and practicality - most important of them, in giving up the demand for a deadline from Parliament to conclude the lokpal legislation. The Hazare camp also gave up the demands for the inclusion of judiciary and the conduct of MPs in Parliament in the ambit of lokpal.
From the initial days onwards the government was willing to get the standing committee discuss all demands of Hazare, but now it is being done through a resolution of Parliament. Anna to end his fast tomorrow | 'Only half battle won' | PM's letter to Anna | Timeline of the crusade