The United Progressive Alliance government heaved a huge sigh of relief Sunday as Anna Hazare ended his 288-hour-long fast. Still, this may just be a lull before the next Hazare storm gathers.
The 74-year-old anti-corruption crusader announced his roadmap for the near future, saying: ‘I have only suspended my agitation. I will not rest until all the changes that I look to are achieved.’ After ending his fast, which seemed most of the past week to be broadcast live virtually 24/7 by all TV channels, Hazare also made it clear that his struggle to rid the Indian system of corruption would continue.
The Gandhian leader, who has become a cult figure in India, immediately announced his next target: sweeping reforms to the election and education systems, and a campaign to improve the livelihoods of millions of farmers and labourers. He also gave a sneak preview of his ideas on electoral reform, saying his next campaign would be based around the idea of the ‘right to recall and right to reject.’
The right to recall would cover elected representatives of the people, while the right to reject would mean a column on the ballot paper allowing the voter to say that he or she doesn’t like the listed candidates. ‘If the majority say they don’t like any of the candidates in the fray, the election should be cancelled,’ Hazare explained.
At the end of his historic fast, Hazare achieved something that has never before happened in the history of this nation of 1.2 billion people: a single man not only won over the government, but also made the Indian parliament dance to his tune. On August 27, in a day of political hurly-burly in and outside parliament, Hazare emerged the clear winner as both houses of parliament unanimously adopted a resolution without actually having to vote on his three demands.
The resolution stated: ‘The House discussed various issues relating to the setting up of a strong and effective Lokpal. This House agrees in principle on the following issues for an effective and strong Lokpal: 1) Citizen's charter, 2) Lower bureaucracy under Lokpal through appropriate mechanism, 3) Establishment of Lokayukta in states, 4) Further resolve to forward the proceedings of the House to the Standing Committee for its perusal while formulating its recommendations for a Lokpal Bill.’
Thousands of Hazare’s national flag-waving supporters at the Ramlila ground shouted slogans in support of their new messiah as two young girls, Simran and Ikrah, offered him honey mixed with coconut water at 10.20 am on Sunday. Hazare was flanked by his team as he made his victory speech, in which he said that what civil society achieved in parliament on Saturday was indeed a victory for the people of India. ‘This movement has created a faith that the country can be rid of corruption and we can go ahead with implementing laws and the Constitution,’ he said.
Hazare exhorted the crowds to continue their non-violent fight against corruption, saying the battle had just begun. ‘You don't become Anna by wearing the Anna cap. You become Anna by practicing my principles,’ he told his supporters.
After his brief speech, a visibly elated but frail Hazare was driven straight to Gurgaon by his personal doctor Naresh Trehan and admitted to the Medanta Medicity hospital, where he will be kept under round-the-clock observation for two or three days.