Anna Hazare and his team on Thursday announced that they were calling off their indefinite fast against corruption at 5 p.m. Friday and said they would seek a referendum on forming a "political alternative".
Hazare, who has been on fast at Jantar Mantar since July 29, announced he and Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai were calling off their fast.
Hazare's announcement on calling off the agitation demanding Lokpal Bill came on a day when a group of eminent personalities, including jurist V R Krishna Iyer and former Army Chief Gen V K Singh, appealed for an end to the fast as the health of Arvind Kejriwal and two others deteriorated.
Hazare told the gathering that the government was not listening to them and was not willing to pass the Jan Lokpal bill, and asked them if the people wanted a political alternative. The crowd cheered "yes, yes."
Hazare then said: "The time has come to give a political alternative".
He added: "There is no harm in giving a political alternative, but only those people should go to parliament who love the country and have a clean background."
Hazare said he will "not join the system but will support it from outside".
He added that if he decides to support a political alternative, "then I should be sure that no corrupt person has reached parliament. If you want to change the government, then we need to plan and make a system".
He also proposed a kind of a referendum on the political alternative, saying the activists would seek the opinion of 6.5 lakh gram sabhas, or village councils, on whether they would support such a move. And "if four lakh gram sabhas vow to support us, then we can give an alternative."
Talking about providing an alternative to the current system, Hazare ruled out launching or joining a political party but asked people to come out with ideas on how the alternative can be provided. "It is time for us to think of an alternative. We want a political alternative. But I will not launch or join a party. People should decide who should be given tickets and how to achieve that alternative system," he said. Questions still remained as to what Team Anna would do regarding the political alternative and whether they would launch a party themselves.
India Against Corruption media coordinator Aswathi Muralidharan told IANS: "The government is insensitive...it is not passing the Lokpal bill or setting up special teams to probe corruption charges against 14 ministers in the central government."
Welcoming the decision to end their fast, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said their move to form a political alternative would make them realise the responsibilities and compulsions of being in politics.
Soni said people associated with Anna Hazare always seemed to be inspired by politics as they had been making comments about members of parliament and criticising them. She said the Congress had always held that Team Anna was goaded by politics and it is a good thing that they have come out in the open with their intention.
“They will realise what are compulsions, what are responsibilities. Particularly working with honesty is not easy,” Soni said.
She said that only Team Anna knew what the purpose of its fast at Jantar Mantar was. Referring to their demand for a strong Lokpal bill, Soni said the government has already got the legislation passed in the Lok Sabha and it was now with the select committee of the Rajya Sabha.
While floating the proposal for a political alternative, Hazare sought the opinion of people on a few crucial questions, before deciding on the move.
- What should be the criteria for selection of candidates to ensure that only those people who love the country and want to serve society are selected?
- What if the wrong or corrupt people get elected, and how can this be checked?
- What if those who get elected turn corrupt?
- The move for a political alternative is to seek change in the system and not change of rule. How can that be ensured?
- How can it be ensured that people cast their votes without the lure of money?
- From where will the money come to fight elections, and how to bring transparency in election funding?
Hazare asked his supporters to reply to these questions in 2-3 days.