Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has quit the Group of Ministers (GoM) on corruption stung by Anna Hazare questioning his credentials, as the anti- graft crusader told PM Manmohan Singh he was not being “instigated” to go an indefinite fast.
As his fast-unto-death on the Lokpal issue entered the third day, Gandhian Anna Hazare on Thursday stuck to the demand for a joint committee of civil society members and government representatives to draft a strong anti-graft bill even as he rejected allegations that he was backed by Sangh Parivar.72-year-old Hazare, who has lost 1.5 kg in the past three days, said there was no need for anyone to worry about his health as he can go with the fast for another seven days. He is in good shape though there has been a rise in his blood pressure and he is feeling weak, his associates said.
Hazare said he was not averse to dialogue but such discussions should take place with those who have power to take decisions. “When did we say no to dialogue. Dialogue should take place with those who have power to take decisions, whether (Congress chief) Sonia Gandhi or Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh),” he said.
Hazare was of the view that there was no point in talking to any committee which has no power to take major decisions. “They cannot take major decisions,” he said in an apparent reference to the Group of Ministers on corruption issue.
Hazare’s protest has led to the resignation of Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar from the Group of Ministers on corruption after the Gandhian took potshots at him.
Social activist Swami Agnivesh said the government was in informal talks with them.
Addressing a gathering of his followers and school students at the Jantar Mantar dharna site in New Delhi, Hazare rejected allegations that he was aligned with BJP and RSS and said he has nothing to do with them. “I have been working for the society for long time. For the past 35 years, I have not gone home. I have three brothers and I don’t know the names of their children. I don’t have any bank balance. I ask people to put Rs five or Rs ten in our carry bag. “Through this, I have kept myself fighting for the public. What have I to do with Congress or BJP? The country which is a gold chest has drowned in dismay because of those who ran the country,” Hazare said, adding some people are still criticising him. “If they had done so much, why is it that the country is still in a mess?” he asked.
He said a Congress spokesperson has said that he was was treading a wrong path by taking to hunger strike. He said he wanted to tell him that even before the spokesperson was born, Mahatma Gandhi had gone forward with civil disobedience movement. “Public takes to satyagraha when all the doors are shut. If he says that this is wrong, does he mean to say that people should continue to suffer. Public will have to protest when there is a threat to their independence,” he said.
He also apologised to Hindutva leader Uma Bharti as his supporters shouted out her and disallowed her to be part of the dharna. “I apologise to her. Some wrong things have happened. Everybody has the right to come and sit here. Nobody can say no that. But we are not allowing anybody to sit on the dais as some people may use it to take mileage out of it,” he said.