Social activist Anna Hazare ended his 12-day fast on Sunday morning at the packed Ramlila Maidan that galvanised the nation but not his campaign against corruption.
Hailing Parliament’s conditional approval of the key elements of his team’s Jan Lokpal Bill as the “people’s victory”, the 74-year-old announced the issues of his unfolding agenda. Electoral reforms to reduce corruption would be the focus of the next phase of his campaign, he told his supporters as his associates demanded that a special session of Parliament be convened to pass a strong lokpal bill within a month.
But, the government indicated that holding a special session of Parliament to pass the lokpal bill may not be possible as the standing committee has indicated a three-month timeframe to finalise its report on the legislation and the government was disinclined to push the committee to hurry. “We expect to introduce the bill in the winter session,” said a senior minister.
On the subject of electoral reforms, Hazare sought the people’s support to mount pressure on the government to empower voters to recall elected representatives and provide them the right to reject contesting candidates to ensure that “people have real power”.
“If the majority in a constituency says that they reject the candidates, the election should be cancelled,” said Prashant Bhushan, a leading member of Team Anna. “Once the candidate spends R10 crore for one election and if the election is cancelled, then sense will dawn on them,” he said.
Hazare declared that he had only deferred his fast, not ended it. He said he would end it only when these reforms are carried out. “I will not rest until all the changes that I look towards are achieved,” he announced as his team members had a tough time handling the sea of people that came to witness him drinking a glass of coconut water and honey offered to him by a Dalit and a Muslim girl — Simran and Iqra.
After breaking his fast, Hazare was driven to Gurgaon’s Medanta — The Medicity where he will stay for a couple of days to recover from his 288-hour fast. He was followed by hundreds of supporters and people lined the streets to cheer him as he waved in acknowledgment.
Later in the day, Team Anna member Kiran Bedi gave credit to the BJP for helping end Hazare’s fast.
“As a major opposition party, it played a vital role in swinging it. They have been the game-changers,” she said.
Law minister Salman Khurshid said in a television interview that the government had not made any mistake in dealing with Hazare and his team but had only committed “errors of judgment”.