THE LAWFILE

Congress hits back, calls Anna Hazare corrupt

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Social activist Anna Hazare and the government appear to be headed for a showdown with the anti-corruption crusader on Sunday announcing that he would continue his indefinite fast until his name was cleared of corruption charges levelled against him or an FIR was lodged against him. This would be even if the government accepted all suggestions made by him on the Lokpal Bill, now before the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

The announcement came hours after the government described his move to sit on a dharna as “undemocratic and an affront to Parliament” and the Congress accused him of indulging in corrupt practices and maladministration as concluded in the Justice (retd.) P.B. Sawant Commission report in 2005. The Commission was set up to probe allegations of corruption against four Ministers of Maharashtra and Mr. Hazare got his name included for scrutiny after one of the Ministers made allegations against him.

Addressing a news conference here, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said while the individuals had a right to protest, the choice of time and place could be the prerogative of authorities keeping in mind the public order. He said fundamental rights came with duties. As the Lok Pal Bill was now with Parliament, there was not much the government could do about it now.

However, Mr. Hazare said he would go ahead with his hunger strike on Tuesday at the Jayaprakash Narayan Park in Delhi, but said it would be peaceful. He appealed to his followers to ensure that there was no violence or damage to public property. “If there is police action, court arrest peacefully and be prepared for lathis and bullets. It is a long-drawn struggle.”

Unhappy over the tone and tenor of Mr. Hazare’s letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday, the government and the Congress took on the anti-corruption crusader and said “there was nothing more undemocratic than the stand taken by him.”

Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said it was not only an insult to the Prime Minister but also to the national flag. Mr. Hazare had, in his letter, used harsh words against Dr. Singh while seeking his intervention in the allotment of place to hold the dharna. Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said not even the Opposition had pointed a finger at the Prime Minister’s honesty and integrity. The government and the Congress questioned the source of “A company’s” funding and suspected “foreign hand” in the funding. Responding sharply to the charge, RTI activist and Mr. Hazare’s aide, Arvind Kejriwal, said the names of donors were available on the website. He challenged the Congress to put up the names of its donors on the website within 24 hours.

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