The four-day face-off between the government and anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare came to an end on Friday night as the government agreed to issue an official order to set up a 10-member joint committee of ministers and civil society activists to draft a new Lokpal Bill.
“The government has accepted all our demands and I will end my fast at 10:30 am. This is a victory for the entire nation,” Hazare told the eagerly waiting masses at Jantar Mantar.
The breakthrough came after a meeting between his emissaries RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal and Swami Agnivesh and government’s representatives HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, Law Minister Veerappa Moily and Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.Later, Sibal welcomed Hazare’s announcement and thanked him for it. “I am happy that the uncertainty is over. It is a victory for democracy,” he said, adding it was for the government now to issue an appropriate order constituting the committee that will include representatives of the civil society and the government.
The government has agreed that a committee will be set up with five representatives of the civil society, including Hazare, and five ministers: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee (as committee chairman), and Moily, Sibal, Khurshid and Home Minister P Chidambaram as members.
Besides Hazare, those representing the civil society in the joint committee will be eminent lawyers Prasant Bhushan, retired Supreme Court Judge Santosh Hegde and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal. Shanti Bhushan will be the co-chairman.
Faced with crucial assembly elections in four states, throughout the day the Congress-led UPA government scrambled for a response as the fast-unto-death over corruption by the 73-year-old Hazare entered into its fourth day.
Till this morning, the sticking points were who would chair the committee and what its legal status would be.
Sources, however, said that Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who in a statement last night announced her support for Anna’s stand and urged him to end his fast, was categorical that the impasse should end as fast as possible.
During the meetings, both Sonia and the PM told senior ministers to end the impasse even though it was broadly agreed that the government’s bowing down would set a very wrong precedent for the future.
But given the solidarity and rallies in support of Hazare’s cause, the government was forced to concede to the activist’s demand for a tough law to combat corruption. The method, made famous by Mahatma Gandhi who pioneered fasting as a form of protest, and physical resemblance to the Father of the Nation helped galvanise support. “I have limited energy. I have no money, no big house and no gold, but I have support from the people and I see God’s will in it,” Hazare’s favourite communication point in the past four days worked.