Team Anna writes to PM ahead of Mumbai fast (Intro Roundup)

December 25th, 2011 - 8:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Mumbai, Dec 25 (IANS) Team Anna made a Christmas Day appeal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to enact the “best possible” Lokpal bill as Anna Hazare prepared for a three-day fast here for a corruption-free India.

But tension was in the air, with the Congress branding Hazare an “RSS agent” and questioning his language vis-a-vis politicians, and Hazare aide Arvind Kejriwal responding that Anna was only “India’s agent”.

Preparations were in full swing Sunday to spruce up the sprawling MMRDA ground here where Hazare will fast Tuesday for the fourth time since April this year when he dramatically escalated the campaign for Lokpal.

Hazare, 74, will arrive here Monday. The three-day hunger strike will start Tuesday, with his aides expecting thousands to turn up in support of the soldier-turn-activist.

On Jan 30, Hazare has called on people to court arrest across the country in support of an effective Lokpal bill to check corruption in high places.

India Against Corruption (IAC) activists finalised security details for the ground, put up fire extinguishers at key spots, gave finishing touches to the VIP and media enclosures, and were readying medical facilities.

Some 200 labourers worked furiously, overseen by about 300 activists, half of them women. Police had already deployed 500 men at the ground.

The MMRDA ground is located in Bandra East, in an upcoming business hub which, IAC members believe, the mass of middle class supporters will find easier to access than the Azad Maidan in south Mumbai.

Activist Anjali Damani said close to 77,000 people had already registered for Hazare’s ‘Jail Bharo’ agitation and “more requests are pouring in”.

Hazare decided to fast after trashing as weak the government’s Lokpal bill introduced in parliament.

Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh called Anna an “RSS agent” saying there were photographs of Hazare with RSS veteran Nanaji Deshmukh.

“And he denied any association with RSS! Now whom do we believe Facts with Picture and the claim of RSS or Anna? I am again proved right,” he tweeted.

Hazare confidant Arvind Kejriwal dismissed the charge, saying it was an attempt to derail the movement.

Kiran Bedi, another Team Anna member, tweeted: “Does sharing of the dais make one each other’s agent. Next time should one sit alone? When two persons share a dais do they become each others agents?

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the Congress had “lost its mind” and that many Congress leaders knew Nanaji Deshmukh.

In what was seen as a final attempt to build bridges with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who Hazare has said is honest, Team Anna Sunday urged him in an open letter to enact the “best possible” Lokpal bill.

IAC said while it was unhappy with the government’s Lokpal bill, it wanted the parliament to come out with the best anti-corruption legislation.

It suggested options to overcome the government’s reluctance to give autonomy to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), but said government bureaucrats should all be covered by the Lokpal.

The Lokpal bill introduced Dec 22 in parliament has stated that the Lokpal will direct complaints against Group C and D employees to the Central Vigilance Commission.

The Mumbai ground has been booked in the name of Public Cause Research Foundation. Some Rs.8 lakh has been paid to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) for its use.

Hazare, who was suffering from cold and cough, is doing better.

“He is doing well on the health front and shall be coming to Mumbai Monday,” an aide said in Hazare’s Ralegan Siddhi village in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district.

Hazare went on a five-day fast in support of an effective Lokpal bill for the first time in April, triggering nationwide solidarity protests. A worried government then held talks with him and his team.

Unhappy over the progress of events, Hazare launched his second and more successful fast spread over 12 days in Delhi’s Ramlila ground, this time forcing parliament to agree to some of his key demands.

Hazare again fasted for a day here Dec 11 to build up support for an effective Lokpal. The hunger strike starting in Mumbai Tuesday will be his fourth on the issue.

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