Siddhi/New Delhi: No bill, no support. Drawing the
battlelines, social crusader Anna Hazare Tuesday said he would
resume his movement for the Jan Lokpal bill with the Oct 13
by-election in Hisar in Harayan where he would campaign against
the Congress. He also hit out at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for
being "remote controlled".
The Congress was quick to react. Law Minister Salman Khurshid said
in New Delhi that citizens were free to vote for anybody. And
Abhishek Singhvi, who heads the parliamentary standing committee
looking into the Jan Lokpal bill and other versions of the Lokpal
bill, said the panel was not in a confrontationist mood.
Taking on the Congress, Hazare said at a press conference in his
village in Ralegan Siddhi, in Maharashtra's Ahmednagar district,
that his campaign for a strong anti-graft Jan Lokpal (ombudsman)
bill would continue after Dussehra. And if the Congress blocked
the law, he would ask people not to vote for it.
"Depending on my schedule, I shall go to Hisar and hold a couple
of public meetings there. If not I shall send a video message to
the people of Hisar explaining how the Congress has blocked the
Jan Lokpal (ombudsman) bill and urge them not to vote for the
party," Hazare declared.
He said civil society activists had written to all the major
candidates contesting the Hisar by-poll asking them whether or not
they supported the Jan Lokpal bill, Team Anna's version of the
"While a majority of them have already replied in the affirmative,
there is no response from the Congress. If the Congress does not
clarify its stand in the next couple of days, then after Dussehra
(Oct 6), I plan to go to Hisar," Hazare said.
The agitation would then be taken to Uttar Pradesh and to Punjab,
Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur, where assembly elections are due
next year, to force the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)
government to "live up to its promise" of passing Team Anna's
version of the Lokpal bill.
"If, as the UPA has assured, the bill is not passed during the
ensuing winter session of parliament, we shall name the Congress
and urge people not to vote for it," Hazare asserted, virtually
giving an ultimatum to the government.
He also announced that he would sit on a three-day hunger strike
in Lucknow -- three days before polling begins in Uttar Pradesh --
to create awareness on the bill and the "attempts by the Congress
to scuttle it".
Hazare said if the Jan Lokpal bill is passed, then they would not
hold any agitation. Instead, they would appeal to the people to
check the antecedents of the candidates and vote for the good
Hazare, whose 12-day fast in August for a strong anti-corruption
bill galvanised thousands across India, also hit out at the prime
minister. He remarked sarcastically that Manmohan Singh was
surrounded by "so many remote controls" that his good intentions
would not be much use to the country.
As Hazare stepped up the ante, the government reacted equally
"It is their decision. Every citizen is free to vote for anybody.
Congress will only do its work, perform its duties and Congress
will then go back to people when the duty is performed," Khurshid
Parliamentary standing committee chairman Singhvi added: "A
parliamentary process is underway. The committee is trying its
best to deal with substantive and real issues. We are not in any
manner in an argumentative or confrontationist mode."
Former law minister Shanti Bhushan, a key member of Team Anna, was
of the view that the Congress would emerge with a single party
majority in the 2014 elections if it accepted and enacted the
hotly contested Jan Lokpal bill.
"If they don't do it, then people are entitled to draw the
inference that they are not serious and the reason behind that
only can be that if a strong Lokpal comes into existence probably
some of them who are involved in corruption might find themselves