Govt, Anna face-off looms

Citing a probe report, Congress, ministers target social activist

Govt, Anna face-off looms

Social activist Anna Hazare addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Sunday. PTIIn a swift counter, Hazare announced he would terminate his fast only after the government brought another Lok Pal bill and cleared him of the “false” corruption charges leveled by the Congress. The Hazare team has turned down the government’s condition that they limit the number of protesters at the venue to 5,000 and restrict the fast to three days.

The 74-year-old Hazare is to begin his protest fast in Delhi a day after Independence Day.

Taking off the gloves, the government said Team Anna cannot decide the venue of the protest and the Lok Pal bill as demanded by it. It saw a “hidden hand” behind the movement that “is not as innocent as it looks.” Three Union cabinet ministers, including Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal and Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, in separate statements described the aims of the civil rights movement as a violation of Constitution and parliamentary democracy. Mukherjee said the Lok Pal bill will be decided by Parliament, and not by Hazare.

“Fundamental rights is not an absolute right. The venue for the fast is to be decided by the commissioner of the police. You want to hold fast in central Delhi where you could get TV coverage and the elite could be attracted. Fast is a way of self-purification and not carrying out a rebellion,” Sibal told a press conference that he addressed jointly with his cabinet colleague Ambika Soni.

The stage is thus set for a seeming showdown between the government and civil rights activists, with both sides sticking to their stands.

In an attempt to take steam out of the anti-corruption campaign, Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said the Justice Sawant Commission report on graft had named  Hazare.

“Before sitting on fast against corruption, he should first answer that. His double standard are exposed,” said Tiwari. Sibal said everybody has a right to protest, but not the right to choose the place and time. The minister cited a SC ruling in support of his argument. “Fundamental right is not an absolute right,” he said.

Besides Hazare, who it implied was guilty of corruption, the government also attacked other personae in the civil rights group such as Arvind Kejriwal, belittling his role as a RTI activist. Soni reminded former cop Kiran Bedi, a member of Hazare’s team, that she had ordered lathi-charge on protesting lawyers.She challenged Hazare to give in writing that once Lokpal bill as sought by him is put in place, all corruption in the country would end.

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