Team Anna on Wednesday launched a fresh agitation against top UPA ministers and new President Pranab Mukherjee amid signs on the ground that its anti-corruption movement was spreading beyond the middle-class and striking a chord in rural India.
At the Capital’s Jantar Mantar, where Anna Hazare’s associates Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai kicked off an indefinite fast in the social activist’s presence, villagers from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan kept pouring in through the day.
Their numbers swelled by the evening to one-third of the 1,500-strong gathering — a big shift from Hazare’s Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Maidan campaigns last year that were dominated by an urban crowd.
Team Anna reiterated its demand that a special investigation team probe UPA ministers for corruption, but law minister Salman Khurshid said the activists were free to go to court or even the United Nations.
Kejriwal directly attacked Mukherjee. “Had there been a strong lokpal, a person like him who faces serious allegations of corruption would have never made it to the top post,” he said.
“The President has immunity against any investigation. We gave evidence against Mukherjee to the Prime Minister and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi two months ago. But there was no probe,” he said.
Khurshid dismissed Team Anna’s campaign, saying: “They should write to the UN. They want an independent probe into matters that have been rejected by the Supreme Court.”
While Team Anna’s demands include a strong lokpal and an SIT to probe corruption allegations against ministers, many rural supporters at Jantar Mantar echoed the crippling effect of corruption on their lives.
“We are constantly affected by corruption, but what is the government doing?” asked Reoti Devi, a villager from Rajasthan.
Ranjana Kumari, director, Centre for Social Research, explained the surge in rural support. “A part of the mobilisation strategy has changed as rural people are equally, rather more, affected by corruption. Right from selling potatoes at the mandi to the minimum support price for rice, they face government officials and corruption,” she told HT.