Anna gets the chills

With Anna Hazare's protest fast against government's Lokpal bill draft due to begin tomorrow at MMRDA grounds, his health has been making headlines

His peaceful agitation for a strong Lokpal bill set to kick off tomorrow in the city, anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare has been getting the shivers for the past few days. Reportedly, cough and cold have been giving the activist sleepless nights. And expectedly, his infirmities have become a talking point for his ideological foes.

Hazare during his fast and dharna at Ramlila Maidan in August.
Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi

Shiv Sena, which criticised Team Anna for holding parallel demonstrations while the bill is still being debated in Parliament, published the news as headline in its mouthpiece Saamna yesterday. 'Anna Azare' (Anna Unwell), proclaims the headline. The brief text to go with it says that Hazare's health has deteriorated because of the chilly weather. The article also quotes Congress veteran leader Digvijay Singh as saying that Anna's supporters have their four square meals while they make the septuagenarian fast.

Meanwhile, Anna supporters are playing down the ailment by claiming that the seasonal illness will vanish soon. "It's true that Annaji was suffering from cold and cough for the last few days, but things are better now. He will be there with all of us at MMRDA grounds on Tuesday and will protest there," said a spokesperson for India Against Corruption (IAC).

Hazare will sit on a three-day fast at MMRDA grounds, BKC, from December 27 to protest the government's version of the Lokpal bill draft. Team Anna thinks the bill the government is trying to pass muster in the house is weak.

Stage set: Additional Police Commissioner Nagre Patil and top police
officials discuss security arrangements at the ground, where CCTVs and
metal detectors will be installed

Hazare, who arrives in the city today, has flatly refused hotel accommodation. Instead, he will stay at the house of one of the volunteers. "Many have volunteered to accommodate Annaji at their place. He doesn't want any money to be spent on his accommodation in a hotel," said IAC member Anjali Damania, one of the protest organisers.

Meanwhile, the stage for Hazare's protest is set, and behind-the-scenes preparations almost over. In a long meeting on Sunday, IAC members worked out the details of the stage and other important things associated with the protests. Damania said a stage has been constructed where Anna will sit on the fast, and there would be a lavatory adjacent to the stage. "Annaji will stay on the MMRDA grounds for all three days. He won't leave the venue for even a minute. All the arrangements have been made," she said.

Congress accuses Anna of being RSS man
In a fresh political offensive against Anna Hazare, Congress leader Digvijay Singh accused the crusader of being associated with the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). "He denied any association with RSS! Now whom do we believe? Facts with pictures or the claim made by RSS or Anna? I am again proved right," Singh tweeted, referring to Hazare's photograph with RSS leader Nanaji Deshmukh in a Hindi daily.

"He (Nanaji) was an RSS activist and at a later date renounced politics and took up social work. The point I want to make is, why does Anna Hazare not accept it," Singh told reporters.

Another Congress leader, Rashid Alvi, also attacked Hazare, who is set to go on a three-day fast in the city. "It's his personal choice to follow any ideology. But there should be some honesty about it; people have the right to know what your ideology is," said Alvi.

The BJP strongly reacted to the Congress statements, saying the Congress has "lost its mind".

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