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Saturday, 24 December 2011

No need for new law to fight corruption: Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy

MATHURA: As Anna Hazare gears up for yet another protest fast against the government's "weak" Lokpal Bill, Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy today advocated the need to strengthen the existing laws to tackle corruption instead of introducing a new legislation to combat the menace.

"Anna Hazare is demanding a new law to fight corruption, but what is required is to strengthen the existing laws, as they are strong enough to fight corruption," Swamy said in a conference here.

He said the Government should strongly implement the existing laws and take swift action against those involved in corruption.

"Corruption is an issue of concern in the US also, but the difference is that quick action is taken against the accused there, but in India even after a court verdict, it takes years to solve a case," he said.

Cong justifies quota, says condition of poor Muslims worse than Dalits

Justifying the Congress-led UPA government's proposed move of providing a sub-quota for minorities, a union minister on Saturday said that condition of poor Muslims and Buddhists in the county was "worse" than Dalits. "The condition of poor Muslims and Buddhists in the country was worse than Dalits, therefore 4.5 % quota within quota was necessary," coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal today said.

The union minister alleged that corruption in Uttar Pradesh was at its peak and blamed the chief minister Mayawati for it. "Though union government wants to set up projects, the state is not making land available and corruption is at its peak," Jaiswal said.

Jaiswal claimed that this time Congress is going to form government in Uttar Pradesh, and "behenji" (Mayawati) and "bhai saheb" should shun their lure of power.

He also said that Congress is not worried about Anna Hazare and is ready to face him if he decides to campaign against the party in the state. "Congress is not worried about the agitation of Anna Hazare or anyone else, and if Anna or his team comes to Uttar Pradesh to campaign against it, the party is ready to face them," Jaiswal told newspersons here.

"Congress looks ahead ... In the past also many people have campaigned against it but what happened," Jaiswal said adding that his is a democratic party which is not afraid of any individual or agitation.

"Congress only thinks about the sentiments of the people following which it has introduced a strong Lokpal Bill in Parliament, which covers Prime Minister as well as employees of group C and D and would try to get it passed," he said.

Problems galore for Anna and his team

New Delhi: This seems to be a weekend fraught with problems for Anna and his team as the anti-corruption crusader is brought down by a severe bout of cold and a case is filed against his team for allegedly insulting the tricolour.

Ahead of his three-day fast in Ralegan Siddhi from December 27 to protest against a "weak" Lokpal Bill, Anna Hazare has caught cold but his associates say it is no major cause for concern.

"Anna has cough and cold. However, there is no reason to worry. He is taking medicines. There is no cause for concern," Hazare's aide Suresh Pathare told reporters.

Meanwhile, Delhi Police was pulled up by a court on Saturday for its failure to take a categorical stand on a complaint accusing Anna and his team members of insulting the tricolour during their anti-graft protest in August.
"Why is it taking so much of time? Tell me an exact date on which you will file the report," Metropolitan Magistrate Tyagita Singh said, while directing the police to file its report on the complaint expeditiously.
The police, which had earlier said it had sought the legal opinion on the complaint from its prosecution branch, said on Saturday "opinion received from the prosecution branch in the matter was not clear whether the offence was made out or not."

"Therefore, the matter was again referred to the prosecution branch for specific opinion and further action will be taken upon receipt of the opinion," the police said.

"The investigating officer has not filed the status report till date and submitted that more time is required as report has been sent to the prosecution branch for legal opinion. Matter be expedited. File report as soon as possible," the court ordered.

The complaint had been filed by advocate Ravinder Kumar seeking registration of an FIR against Hazare, Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and six others for allegedly showing disrespect to the Tricolour during their anti-graft

He had also annexed his complaint with pictures showing Kiran Bedi, a key member of Team Anna, waving a torn tricolour and other protesters demeaning the national flag by mishandling it and even painting it on their bodies.

Comment: Lokpal is still a long haul, but Anna damages his cause

Considering that Anna Hazare is dissatisfied with the Lokpal bill presented to parliament, it is obvious that a quick resolution of the confrontation between him and the government is not feasible. In fact, the scene can take a turn for the worse if, for one, Anna's fast has an adverse effect on his health, as his doctors have warned. And, for another, if the proposed protest outside Sonia Gandhi's and Rahul Gandhi's houses leads to violence.

The main difference between the earlier stages of Anna's campaign and the latest one is that while his focus was mainly on his fasts earlier, he is now presenting a direct challenge to the Congress. This switch to politics, which will be intensified if Anna tours the five states going to the polls to campaign against the Congress, underlines a realisation that self-flagellation or self-purification a la Gandhi is no longer as effective as before.

True Anna's movement can be claimed to have been always political. Besides, it was also anti-Congress. Any anti-government agitation that singles out the first party for constant criticism cannot be anything other than political and anti-Congress. But it is possible that this emphasis on the Congress has given the latter an opportunity to engineer a line-up along a familiar political fault line.

As is obvious, the Congress now has on its side, apart from its allies in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), parties from the Hindu belt like Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party,Ramvilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and also, possibly, Sharad Yadav's Janata Dal-United (JD-U), which is an ally of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). There is also a possibility that Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will side with the Congress at a critical moment.

What can be seen in this combination is the familiar secular-communal divide, except for the JD-U. But, like the latter, the Shiv Sena, too, is currently closer to the Congress on the anti-Anna platform than to the NDA. That leaves out the BJP. But, before considering its position, it is worth noting that the political turn which Anna has given to his movement has highlighted the old battle lines between (in addition to the secular-communal schism) the rural backward castes and Dalits of the cow belt on one side and the middle class-dominated urban support base of Team Anna on the other.

Not surprisingly, to strengthen its own side of the divide, the Congress has played the caste, gender and religion cards by ensuring reservations for Dalits, Adivasis, Other Backward Classes (OBCs), women and minorities in the eight-member Lokpal bench and in the so-called search committee which will help in the Lokpal's selection.

The BJP has, predictably, opposed the inclusion of minorities in the panel and the committee, calling it unconstitutional. It may be right. But the Congress will not be too concerned about the hurdles put by it for, first, the BJP's stance will again reinforce its Hindu communal image and, second, if the judiciary strikes down the provision, the resultant delay in the enactment of the bill will not displease the Congress.

After all, the party has never been in a tearing hurry to see the bill through. The inordinate delay in its enactment - the measure has been hanging fire since 1968 - is evidence enough of its lack of interest. Nor is it the only laggard. It is no secret that the entire political class is wary of the possibility of an all-powerful ombudsman sitting in judgment over their heads.

Hence their reluctance to relinquish control over the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), for they know that once the police and the bureaucracy are imbued with genuine professionalism where they can act without fear or favour, the cosy partnership between politicians, officials and even criminals willcome to an end. The pressure from the Anna group may have forced the government to ease its earlier iron grip on theCBI - now the Lokpalwill have the power of "superintendence" over the CBI - but the repeated pleas by the backward caste politicians and also the Communist Party of India (CPI) not to pass the bill in a hurry are not motivated by a need for closer examination alone.

There is little doubt that Anna has pushed the government a long distancetowards the framingof a reasonably powerful Lokpal. But, by sticking to its old "my way or the highway" stance, Anna is damaging his own cause. Besides, while his own decency - except for a few quirky attitudes like tying the "accused people to trees to deliver summary justice", as Amartya Sen said - is unquestionable, the pomposity of some of his colleagues can be off-putting. If they retain their influence, the movement can suffer a setback because they lack the sophistication to guide it through the present phase when a lot has been achieved.

Anna Hazare's fast: Police take stock of security arrangement at MMRDA

MUMBAI: Top police officials today took stock of security arrangements at the MMRDA ground, where CCTVs, metal detectors besides barricades will be installed for Anna Hazare's three-day fast from December 27 demanding a stronger Lokpal bill.

"They have agreed to install CCTVs, metal detectors and ground barricades at the venue. They will start work by tonight or tomorrow morning and the ground will be ready by evening on December 26," DCP Saytya Narayan Choudhary told reporters at the ground.

Joint Commissioner (Law and Order) Rajnish Sheth also visited the ground earlier in the day.

"We have given them some Dos and Don'ts," said a police source adding final inspection of the ground would be conducted on Monday.

Meanwhile, the police have also asked the organisers to slightly modify the layout plan. "Since Anna has Z+ security, police have asked us to make some changes in the layout plan," said an Anna aide.

Anna Hazare invites people to register for jail bharo

New Delhi: Anna Hazare's jail bharo agitation for a strong Lokpal has been a hit with netizens with over 40,000 people registering for the protest within a day of the India Against Corruption (IAC) launching a website for it.

IAC has launched a website for people to register for the agitation all over the country. The website has state wise as well as city wise listing of the number of people registered for 'jail bharo'.

Team Anna member Kiran Bedi invited registrations on Twitter on Friday. "B a Freedom fighter agnst corruption Register for Jail bharo. Sms to 575758 or call 07303150500," she tweeted.

Over 40,000 people had registered for the agitation till 7 am on Saturday on the

The website for the agitation starting December 30, is called 'Jail Bharo' ( and invites people to register for the protest in their respective states and cities.

The count of people who have registered for the agitation was 40,184 till 7:00 am on Saturday and the number is going up every second.

Anna Hazare and his team have rejected the Lokpal Bill presented in the Lok Sabha on Thursday and have announced to resume their agitation from December 27. Hazare will fast at Mumbai's Azad Maidan from December 27 to December 29 and will begin jail bharo from December 30.

The Government had tabled the Lokpal Bill in the Lok Sabha on Thursday even as MPs cutting across party lines criticised several provisions of the anti-corruption legislation.

While some MPs criticised specific provisions of the legislation, others asked came down heavily on the Government for showing 'undue haste' following the Anna Hazare agitation in rushing through the Bill.
Hazare and his associates called the Bill a weak one and claimed that it would not be able to tackle corruption. Hazare's close aide even went to the extent of saying that he had little faith in Parliament after the debate over Lokpal Bill in Lok Sabha.

"They say (MPs) 'have faith in Parliament'. My mother says 'have faith in Lord Shiva'. I now tend to agree more with my mother," Kejriwal tweeted.

Another Team Anna member and former IPS officer Kiran Bedi feared that the Lokpal Bill may go the Women's Reservation Bill's way as those in power are comfortable with status quo.

"What you are seeing is nothing unexpected. It may go the Women's Bill way. There is no unity, no consensus on the issue," she said reacting to the opposition from some political parties to the proposed legislation.

Bedi said the bill was hurting those in power. "It appears that status quo suits those in position and power," she said.

Lalu Prasad Ydav at his witty best in Lok Sabha

NEW DELHI: Lalu Prasad was at his irrepressible best in the Lok Sabha today as he used his rustic wit and humour to send a message against rushing through the Lokpal Bill, taking potshots at Anna Hazare and his team.

"Don't put the noose around your neck," the RJD chief appealed to the packed House, saying "Parliament cannot be run from the footpath. We are the lawmakers."

Prasad's poser was "how many friends of (Suresh) Kalmadi you want to make? If an ex-MP comes, he doesn't get place even in the bathroom," evoking laughter. He said the Lokpal would open a Pandora's box for the lawmakers themselves, both past and present.

In the midst of his hilarious remarks, he said "I was born in 1948. Mere aane se pahle hi Angrez bhag gaye (even before I arrived, British fled)". This sent the House into peals of laughter.

Repeatedly saying that he was not against the Bill as was being projected, Prasad went out of the way to woo the media saying that it should be exempted from the ambit of the Lokpal, maintaining it was doing "nothing wrong but giving publicity" to politicians.

In this context, he said Union minister Kapil Sibal's photographs were being well-published in the newspapers. Then he turned to another minister Pawan Kumar Bansal saying he has a file tucked in his armpit and feels like he is running the government.

Hazare shoots letter to Guv on fasting Mumbai University professors

Even as social activist Anna Hazare is preparing to stage his hunger strike in the city, he has come forward to support two professors fasting at Azad Maidan.

Professors of University of Mumbai Vaibhav Narawade and Subhash Athawale have been fasting since December 21 over the fake certificates of controller of examination Professor Vilas Shinde.

On Thursday, Hazare wrote to the chancellor of state universities and Governor K Sankaranarayanan on the Shinde case.
Written in Marathi and sent to the governor’s Mumbai office, the letter (DNA has a copy of it) says that Shinde had applied for two posts in 2007 but submitted different experience certificates. “In this regard, Prof Vaibhav Narawade met you (chancellor) in April 2010 and you have assured him to take action. But the university did nothing in this regard. Now you must look into the matter personally,” says the letter.

Hazare also attached Shinde’s documents with the letter.
“I am unaware of the letter as I am in Nagpur. Governor Sir was also in Nagpur till Friday. I will confirm after reaching Mumbai tomorrow,” said Umesh Kashikar, PRO of Raj Bhawan.

The three-day fast has made Athawale and Narawde weak. “We are yet to get an official communication on management council decision. We will continue to fast till our demands are met.”

A total of 150 students and parents lent their support to the professors.

All demands of Anna can't be met: Khurshid

Union law minister Salman Khurshid today said all demands of Anna Hazare on Lokpal Bill "cannot be accepted" and the activist has to decide the "limits" of his exercise. "We have included all good points (suggested by Team Anna) in the Lokpal Bill. But not everything they say we are in a position to accomodate because a lot of other people think differently," Khurshid told reporters on the sidelines of a conference 'Electoral Reforms in India - The Role of Intellectuals' here.

"Anna Hazare has a role to perform and it is a legitimate exercise, but he has to decide what the limits of exercise are," Khurshid said, adding that the government would not advise him on that front. Asked whether he would appeal to Hazare to not go on fast from December 27, he replied that personally he would not do so, but would if the government takes a collective decision on the matter. "But (for now), there is no such decision taken by the government," he said.

Asked whether the Lokpal Bill undermined the autonomy of the CBI, Khurshid said the government and other investigation agencies, including the Lokpal, would not interfere in the probes conducted by the CBI.

"CBI also must know that they would not do all the investigation themselves, Lokpal would be free to give investigation to any other agency if they wished so," the minister clarified.

"I can assure you more than the CBI, the law ministry understands the integrity of the investigation. We have vetted it (Lokpal Bill) very carefully and I don't believe we have any problems with it," he added.

Replying to a question, Khurshid said if corruption is encouraged by elections, as alleged by Hazare, there are ways to contain it.

"We cannot sacrifice democracy at the altar of fight against corruption. We will have to find a combined and convergent method to strengthen democracy and weaken corruption," he said.

Khurshid also appealed to the BJP to play a constructive role in passing the Lokpal Bill in Parliament. "If there are differences between the parties, they must be sorted out," he said.

However, "arguing in front of the media and sharing space at the India Against Corruption platform" was not the best way to go about it, he said.

"They (BJP) are very experienced leaders. I must not be telling them what should not be done," he said.

Reacting to the BJP charge that Congress "propped up" RJD chief Lalu Prasad for derailing the focus of the Lokpal Bill by welcoming reservation for minority quota, Khurshid said, "It will not be fair to say we have propped up or provoked him.

"Laluji is very strong in his opinions and sometimes they might help the government, but sometimes they might hurt," the minister said. "They are his opinions and I think we should respect everybody's opinions".

Asked about Congress leader Digvijay Singh's stance on attacking Team Anna, Khurshid said the party leader is "a warrior".

"He works with a sword and we are pen-wielders," he said.

Anna Hazare crusade splits Shiv Sena, BJP

Social activist Anna Hazare has created a dent in the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance.

The parties will now draw up their own manifestoes for the civic and zilla parishad elections in the state.

“Politically, it works to our advantage to see that the agitation continues in Mumbai. The longer the agitation, the better for the BJP as members of Team Anna are going to engage in bashing the ruling Congress,” said sources in the BJP.

“If Mumbaikars can connect with Anna’s agitation, it certainly would give credence to our campaign against corruption,” they added.

After the initial flip flop, the Sena decided to take an anti-Hazare stand. It said Hazare has no business to usurp the role of a dictator in a democratic system.

The BJP is worried that the Sena’s opposition to Hazare’s agitation could expose the cracks within the alliance. “If the Congress had resolved the controversy over the Jan Lokpal bill, the matter would have been relegated to the backburner. As the Opposition party in the Centre and the state, it works to our advantage to see that the issue keeps burning,” said a senior BJP leader, requesting anonymity.

The BJP-ruled states have been under pressure from its central leadership to adopt tough laws for Lok Ayukta. This is to convey a strong message to the people that the BJP is serious about fighting corruption. “The party is determined to fight against corruption,” said Madhav Bhandari, senior BJP leader. “As far as the state unit is concerned, we believe that every organisation has the right to protest in a democratic manner.”

The BJP leaders in Maharashtra have decided not to get into an ugly debate with the Sena. “When it comes to fighting corruption, there is no reason why the Sena should oppose his agitation which has public support,” said the BJP strategists.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

New Lokpal Bill to be tabled in Lok Sabha tomorrow

NEW DELHI: A new Lokpal Bill will be introduced in the Lok Sabha tomorrow and the existing one withdrawn.

This was conveyed by the government to the main opposition party, the BJP, on Wednesday along with the intention to have a three-day additional sitting of Parliament from December 27 to take up this crucial bill. BJP gave its nod to this proposal.

Earlier today, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee held a meeting with Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha - Sushma Swaraj, her counterpart in Rajya Sabha - Arun Jaitley and BJP leader L K Advani to discuss the issue.

Mukherjee conveyed to the BJP that the Lokpal Bill passed by the Cabinet last night could be circulated to MPs only later this evening, according to sources.

He also said that the existing Lokpal Bill- introduced in the Monsoon Session of Parliament- will be withdrawn in the Lok Sabha tomorrow and the new bill introduced. Mukherjee said that in this scenario, there was little option but to extend the winter session by three more days and discuss the Lokpal Bill from December 27 to 29.

BJP agreed to the proposal after initial reluctance. BJP party sources said its opposition is to the content of the bill rather than extension of this session.

The Business Advisory Committee (BAC) will meet this evening to decide on the extension.

Government is keen to ensure passage of the Lokpal Bill along with two crucial legislations- Judicial Accountability Bill and Whistleblower Protection Bill -- during the current session. But since only two days are left, it wants additional sitting after the Christmas break.

The BAC had yesterday decided to hold an additional three day sitting from December 27 but later several MPs opposed it, prompting the government to say it will have a rethink.

Several MPs, including from the UPA coalition, are still opposed to the three day extension of the session.

Lokpal Bill was cleared last night by the Union Cabinet. The new bill will be a Constitution amendment Bill which will also bring the Prime Minister under the ambit of Lokpal with certain riders.

The bill, however, keeps the CBI out of purview of Lokpal except on cases which are referred to it by the latter. The Lokpal will have its own wings for preliminary inquiries and prosecution.

The Lokpal will be a nine-member body including the chairperson.

No 'understanding' with Govt on Lokpal: BJP

New Delhi: The BJP on Wednesday refuted suggestions it had an "understanding" with the government on the Lokpal Bill, insisting the party will stick to the dissent notes it had submitted to the Parliamentary panel dealing with the Bill and also move amendments where it does not agree.

Though senior BJP leaders maintained they were unaware of the contents of the Lokpal Bill and can react only when the copy of the proposed legislation is circulated to them, the party said it will not dilute its stand.
"There is no understanding with the government on the Lokpal Bill. Only when the draft is circulated will it be possible for us to study it and comment on it. We will try to give a preliminary reaction tomorrow," Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said.

He said BJP has already stated its position on the Lokpal in the dissent notes it gave to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice which was dealing with the existing Lokpal Bill. BJP members in the Committee had given 18 dissent notes.

The BJP leader insisted that his party had reacted "at times even harshly" to the government Lokpal draft, adding that the yardstick for this is the dissent note.

Jaitley maintained that what has appeared in the newspapers about the "basic features" of new Lokpal Bill is "a matter of concern".

"Like in the appointment of Lokpal the influence of the government is overarching, if the newspaper reports are true. The independence and autonomy of the CBI is not there; there is government control. There are several other questions on which it is possible to make comments only after seeing the whole draft," Jaitley said.

The BJP also maintained that the extension of winter session of Parliament was not a priority area for the party and it was only concerned about the content of the law which should be "reasonable".

Indian govt set for showdown

The Indian government geared up yesterday for a showdown with opposition parties and civil activists over a landmark anti-corruption bill to be presented in parliament.

The new legislation was the focus of mass protests in August, spearheaded by veteran activist Anna Hazare, that saw millions take to the streets of cities across India to denounce the corruption that permeates all levels of Indian society.

The proposed law would create a powerful new ombudsman, or "Lokpal", tasked with probing and prosecuting senior politicians and civil servants suspected of graft.

The Indian cabinet approved a final version of the bill late Tuesday and Sonia Gandhi, the president of the ruling Congress party, vowed to steer its passage through parliament over the objections of opposition MPs and the Hazare campaign.

"I will fight for the Lokpal Bill," she told a meeting of Congress party members. "I cannot see any reason for us to be defeatist."

Opposition parties have said they will insist on amendments to the cabinet-approved bill, while Hazare has scheduled a repeat of his August hunger strike that galvanised public opinion behind his campaign.

The main points of contention focus on the ambit of the ombudsman's office and its powers of investigation.

The government bill offers only limited jurisdiction over the prime minister and requires the ombudsman to put any criminal probes in the hands of the government-controlled Criminal Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Hazare and a number of opposition parties want the ombudsman to control any CBI investigations

Indian govt set for showdown over anti-graft bill

NEW DELHI - The Indian government geared up on Wednesday for a showdown with opposition parties and civil activists over a landmark anti-corruption bill to be presented in parliament.

The new legislation was the focus of mass protests in August, spearheaded by veteran activist Anna Hazare, that saw millions take to the streets of cities across India to denounce the corruption that permeates all levels of Indian society.

The proposed law would create a powerful new ombudsman, or “Lokpal”, tasked with probing and prosecuting senior politicians and civil servants suspected of graft. The Indian cabinet approved a final version of the bill late on Tuesday and Sonia Gandhi, the president of the ruling Congress party, vowed to steer its passage through parliament over the objections of opposition MPs and the Hazare campaign. “I will fight for the Lokpal Bill,” she told a meeting of Congress party members. “I cannot see any reason for us to be defeatist.”

Opposition parties have said they will insist on amendments to the cabinet-approved bill, while Hazare has scheduled a repeat of his August hunger strike that galvanised public opinion behind his campaign. The main points of contention focus on the ambit of the ombudsman’s office and its powers of investigation.

The government bill offers only limited jurisdiction over the prime minister and requires the ombudsman to put any criminal probes in the hands of the government-controlled Criminal Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Hazare and a number of opposition parties want the ombudsman to control any CBI investigations.

“I reject the new version of the bill,” Hazare told reporters in his village in western India.

“If the CBI is outside (the ombudsman’s control), then how will the Lokpal be strong? This system will save corrupt politicians,” he said, accusing the government of “cheating” the Indian people by proposing a weak bill.

Gandhi hit out at what she called the “obstructionist” tactics of the opposition and accused the Hazare team of “malicious” criticism.

The outpouring of public support for Hazare’s anti-graft fast in August had stunned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s coalition government, which has been tainted by a series of high-profile corruption scandals. Hazare confirmed that he would hold a new, three-day hunger strike from December 27 in a public venue in Mumbai.
Government sources said the anti-corruption bill would be formally submitted to parliament on Thursday (today) – the final day of the current winter session.

Lokpal will be 'new Gaddafi': Shiv Sena

NEW DELHI: On the eve of introduction of a new Lokpal bill in Parliament, Shiv Sena today appealed to political parties to stop a "new Gaddafi" from taking birth.

Declaring that creation of the Lokpal was not the only way to eradicate corruption, Party General Secretary Sanjay Raut said that the passage of the bill could lead to the ombudsman controlling the nation.

"Stop a new Gaddafi from taking birth in the interest of the nation and Parliamentary democracy," the MP said.

Claiming that Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thacakrey was the first party chief to come out against the creation of the Lokpal to maintain supremacy of Parliament and its representatives, he said that other parties needed to follow suit.

Shiv Sena, he said, has always fought against corruption and has staged agitations on the issue. He claimed that Team Anna member Kiran Bedi has "no moral right" to agitate on the issue of corruption due to her alleged "acts of omission and commission".

He also took a dig at Anna Hazare's plans to shift the venue of his proposed fast from Delhi to Mumbai in view of the intense cold in the capita . He said that MPs have been attending Parliament in spite of the cold and have even extended the winter session.

Politics Journal: Whatever Happened to Kashmir?

A non-violent agitator takes on the government with a sustained campaign. The nation takes to the streets, the government is flustered, opens a dialog and then largely capitulates to the campaigner’s demands.

That sums up Anna Hazare’s months-long push to get the government to agree to a strong Lokpal, or ombudsman, bill, which now is about to come before Parliament, even though the government and “Team Anna” still have major differences.

In summer of 2010, stone-pelting youths
 took the Srinagar’s streets, chanting
slogans demanding freedom.

But such a story line is only a distant hope for Yasin Malik, the leader of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front.

“The Indian state is so strong and powerful. I have taken the path of non-violent protest for so many years now. But nobody is interested in talking to me,” he told India Real Time at a conference organized by the Delhi-based think-tank, the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation and a Pakistani think-tank, the Jinnah Institute.

In the tumultuous summer in 2010, stone-pelting youths took the Srinagar’s streets with the chant “Hamein kya chahiye” – “what is it that we want?” – and the answer “Azaadi!” – freedom!

But this year, an eerie calm has pervaded the streets as domestic tourists travelled to Kashmir in record numbers. The situation was deemed sufficiently calm that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah sought to address the very sensitive and complex long-pending issue of the removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from the state.

To many, it has been viewed as a sign of a peaceful new era. But to some in Kashmir, including Mr. Malik, it is more a sign that Kashmir has not been “solved” but has simply slipped down the priority list of the Indian government’s major problems, replaced by the likes of Mr. Hazare. He also sees a similarly dismissive attitude in Pakistan as it tries to improve relations with India.

“Both India and Pakistan have frozen Kashmir,” Mr. Malik said, speaking to IRT on the margins of a conference.

He may not be far wrong. In recent years, Kashmir has lost its position in India’s centre-stage in more ways than one. Prior to the Mumbai attacks of 2008, the Kashmir dispute as well as terrorism were always on top of any India-Pakistan agenda, but after Mumbai, the need for Pakistan to end terrorism directed at India has become dominant.

Domestically too, the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance’s perceived weakness and its myriad scandals have not only dented the UPA’s image but allowed people like Anna Hazare to fill the credibility vacuum.

In Pakistan too, as relations with the U.S. and with Afghanistan plunge downward, Kashmir-specific attention seems to have dipped. Political parties make perfunctory reference to resolving Kashmir before embarking on any activity with India, as was evident when Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (N) party recently made noises about Kashmir on the question of Pakistan giving most favored nation status to India.

But the party quickly fell in line, because it favors improved relations with India. It was lost on no one that improved trade with India has several takers inside Pakistan, across the political spectrum, and that these lobbies did not want it held hostage to the Kashmir issue.

In his conversation with IRT, Yasin Malik refused to talk about the nature of a possible compromise between India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir, only insisting that the beginning of a real dialogue between honorable interlocutors will lead to a solution that will be acceptable to both sides.

Meanwhile, Mirwaiz Omer Farooq of the Hurriyat Conference, addressing a seminar in Kashmir a couple of weeks ago, bemoaned how even western countries, whether the European Union, the U.S. or U.K., preferred to now focus on economic issues rather than human rights violations.

With Mr. Hazare dominating newspaper and television space for the best part of the last six months, Kashmiri separatist leaders say they are bitter about the Indian state’s virtual refusal in opening a dialogue with them.  The federal government appointed three interlocutors to talk to all shades of Kashmiri opinion in an effort to  gauge the depth of the  problem, but all separatist groups spurned the  initiative. That report is expected to come out in the next few weeks.

Instead, Kashmir has been preoccupied with a much less significant debate on whether to open bars and cinemas in the valley – hardly the stuff that the future will be decided over.

For the record, the issue has drawn much ire from the separatist leadership, but several Kashmiris — both Muslim and Hindu – have responded by pointing out that several bars and cinemas had existed before Pakistan-sponsored militancy began in 1989.

“Gujarat has banned the sale of alcohol since 1948, in deference to being the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi, but it has very high levels of consumption. We should end this hypocrisy,” said a Kashmiri analyst. But he added: “The question is not whether Kashmiris should be allowed to publicly drink or not drink, but what should be the relationship between Kashmiris and the rest of India. For that to happen, an honorable conversation on the future of Kashmir must begin as soon as possible.”

It might be tempting to say that if Kashmir is peaceful and the biggest thing the valley’s residents are worried about is whether they can get a beer, then that is real progress for one of the world’s most troubled regions.

Mr. Malik begs to differ.

He says this year’s calm in the Kashmir valley is a deceptive one, and that the simmering discontent beneath is bound to break out sooner than later.

“I have to face the anger of my boys who keep asking me, ‘Why should we stay quiet?’ ‘Why should we not use force?’” he said.

“I want to tell the Indian government: ‘Do you want these boys to become the Taliban?’ ‘Do you want the state to become radicalized?’ If not, you have to address our concerns. You have to talk to us about the nature of Kashmir’s relationship with India.”

Is Anna Hazare Bollywood's marketing weapon?

New Delhi: Bollywood stars, on an aggressive promotional spree, seem to have jumped on to the bandwagon of veteran social activist Anna Hazare who has a considerable following among the youths of India.

On Wednesday actor Shah Rukh Khan, who was recently in the national capital to promote his film Don 2, said he supported the anti-corruption movement launched by Hazare. This is not the first time that Hazare has attracted stars to his popular campaign.

Khan said every aspect of the cause should be looked at seriously. "I think we all support the cause. I think there should be no corruption in the country. I think this whole aspect is becoming so large and so big and there are so many aspects of it that we need to look at it seriously, quietly, step-backedly. We just can't keep saying we support anti-corruption," said Khan.

Actor Kabir Bedi and her star father Kabir Bedi were seen at the Ramlila Maidan protest ground in New Delhi during Hazare's fast to force the government into drafting a stronger Ombudsman bill.
Ramlila Maidan and Hazare drew a star campaigner in August this year when actor Aamir Khan arrived with '3 Idiots' filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani in a crisp white shirt and was welcomed on stage with a thundering applause.

Khan said, "I am here to meet Annaji and give him a hug for the initiative he has taken."
Bollywood till now has only given a passive support to the Jan Lokpal issue. From tweets to participating in pro-Anna rallies in Mumbai, the Anna movement was yet to rub shoulders with the 'heroes'.

"The Bill won't be passed in a day or two. It requires a lot of discussion and debate in Parliament," Aamir said at that time. His presence on the stage raised a lot of eyebrows ahead of the release of his actor nephew Imran Khan’s film 'Mere Brother Ki Dulhan' in September. Khan had also been promoting Delhi Belly, another Imran starrer that was released in July.

Thousands of protestors were in for a treat as Aamir gave a speech and even entertained the spectators by singing. Director Rajkumar Hirani also spoke at the stage and asserted the need for Anna Hazare, 74, to remain healthy.

Hazare's campaign has attracted a lot of high profile campaigners.
Bollywood stars seem to have realised that Hazare’s new-found popularity among the youths is an assured way to reach out to their target audience

Lokpal: endgame near despite Anna protest?

New Delhi: As the deadline of another agitation by Anna Hazare for a strong Lokpal Bill approaches, the UPA has decided to withdraw the old draft and introduce a new one in Parliament even though several smaller parties have accused the Government of trying to rush though the proposed anti-corruption legislation.
Anna has threatened to go on hunger strike from December 27 if Parliament fails to pass a strong Lokpal Bill, but there is no unanimity among the different parties on the proposed Bill.

The winter session of Parliament, which was scheduled to end on December 22, has been extended by three days from December 27 to discuss Lokpal Bill and other legislations.

The Lokpal bill is expected to be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Thursday and would be taken up for discussion when Parliament reconvenes on December 27 after a four-day Christmas break.

Even as UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi addressed Congress MPs and assured them that the government bend further to please Team Anna and the Opposition, the UPA withdrew the old bill and decided to introduce a new draft. The BJP has given its nod to this proposal.

She told her party colleagues that the Government won't go down without a fight on the Lokpal Bill and will ensure that it doesn't meet the same fate as the Women's Reservation Bill.

She also reiterated that the Government and the party were united on the issue and hit out at the Opposition in general and the BJP in particular for trying to derail the Lokpal Bill.

"The Lokpal Bill has been cleared by the Cabinet. The Opposition will have lots of things to say. They should accept suggestions of Government. Team Anna should also accept it. The Opposition cannot reconcile to the fact that they lost (the 2009 Lok Sabha elections). The party and Government support each other, there is no rift between the party and Government," said Sonia.

In another major development, several MPs cutting across party lines have come down heavily on both the Lokpal Bill cleared by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Cabinet and anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare.

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad, Samajwadi Party Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury have questioned the UPA Government's intention while making it clear that Parliament will not rush through the anti-corruption legislation in a hurry to please Hazare and his associates.

Lalu questioned the need for rushing though the legislation and said that a Bill can be passed after following a due process of Parliament.

"No one can dictate terms to us. Parliament has to follow due process. It is an important legislation. MPs may want to move amendments. How can we rush through it?" questioned Lalu.

Mulayam Singh Yadav warned the government that the proposed legislation would give 'all powers' to the police.

"Lokpal will not be in your hands. It will go to the hands of police. Nothing can be done then against the police," he said and apparently referred to Anna Hazare as he asked whether all this could be done "under pressure of one man".

He said his party will oppose as much as it can. "These powers will go to the police, they will not respect us (MPs). Superintendents of Police and District

Magistrates will send us to jail," Yadav said.

Mayawati-led Bhaujan Samaj Party is also against rushing through the Bill while the Shiv Sena has opposed the concept of a Lokpal completely. The BJP and Biju Janata Dal have also opposed the Government version, but want an early passage of the Bill.

The BJP is yet to reveal its strategy but it has said that the party is ready for a discussion on the Bill any day. It is likely to raise objections on the procedure of the appointment of the Lokpal panel.

BJP leader Arun Jaitely said, "Primary reports on draft are matter of concern. It doesn't measure to our expectation. Selection of Lokpal and independence of CBI is a major concern."

However, Keeping up the heat, Team Anna on Wednesday attacked the government for keeping CBI out of Lokpal's ambit, saying it 'totally destroys' the anti-corruption mechanism in the country by not giving an investigating arm to the ombudsman.

"If the CBI is outside, then how will the Lokpal be strong? This system will save corrupt politicians. If CBI comes under Lokpal then (Home Minister) P Chidambaram will be in jail. You are saving corrupt politicians and say it is a strong Lokpal," Anna said.

"It is cheating people who will teach them a lesson," he said adding he will campaign against the UPA in Uttar Pradesh and other four states going to polls early next year.

Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal said the new bill will do "more harm than doing good" to the existing anti-graft machinery.

Another Team Anna member Justice Santosh Hegde said there was some "ego problem" with government in accepting certain suggestions in Jan Lokpal bill while Kiran Bedi claimed that the agency will remain under government control till immunity is given for past acts of corruption by political parties.

"The Lokpal Bill will not have even investigating powers. You will complain to Lokpal but it cannot investigate. What Lokpal is the government setting up? It means the government is cheating people," Kejriwal said.

Hegde said with CBI out of Lokpal's control, what it does will be like departmental enquiry. "This is certainly unacceptable," he said.

Bedi said on micro-blogging site Twitter, "The bill is not path breaking but breaking the path. Thank you Sonia G."

"It appears till a provision for immunity is guaranteed for past acts of corruption, political parties will ensure CBI remains in government control," she said, adding it was now 'Save CBI' campaign.

The government may find it difficult to pass the Lokpal Bill in the Parliament if the Opposition continue to oppose it. The government has a majority in Lok Sabha but the Opposition can push for amendments in Rajya Sabha.

Dalit leader welcomes reservation in Lokpal

New Delhi: Dalit leader Udit Raj on Wednesday welcomed the Union Cabinet's decision to include reservation for SC, ST, OBC and other weaker section in the ambit of the proposed Lokpal.

Raj, Chairman of All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations, also took a dig at Team Anna and said they should understand their "weaknesses."

"They might have organised big shows at Ramlila ground and Jantar Mantar but the majority of silent section of people is not necessarily with them," he said in a release.

There is no doubt that Anna Hazare has aroused the consciousness of the country on corruption but they should wait and watch what Parliament is going to do, he said.

"After all, Parliament is the will of about 120 crore people and thus they (Team Anna) should have faith in democracy," he said.

While welcoming the Government draft of Lokpal Bill which was approved by Cabinet yesterday, he suggested that Lokpal selection panel should not have more than two judges and that members from other fields like journalism and education also be made part of the panel.

Anna Hazare on warpath again

Rejecting the Citizens’ Charter Bill tabled by the government in Parliament on Tuesday, anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare criticised the Manmohan Singh government for introducing a “misleadingGrievance Redressal Bill”.

He also reiterated his plans to proceed with a three-day fast in Mumbai from December 27.

The government on Tuesday tabled the Citizen’s Charter Bill, also known as the Grievance Redressal Bill, which spells out the responsibilities of government departments towards citizens, their right to delivery of goods and services, and redressal of their grievances in a time-bound manner.

Speaking to journalists along with core team member, Arvind Kejriwal, at his village on Tuesday, Hazare said, “The basic structure of the draft introduced in Parliament is both misleading and unrealistic. It shows the government is not serious about fighting graft.”

Hazare said that after three days of fasting, he would call for three more days of “jail bharo andolan” across the country.

He said that under the government’s bill, a common citizen would have to run from pillar to post to get his grievances redressed. “The Jan Lokpal bill

submitted by us has meticulous and realistic provisions for timely grievance redressal, which the government has chosen to
overlook,” he said.

A visibly irate Hazare accused the central government of going back on its promise of introducing a Citizens’ Charter bill as per the “sense of the house” resolution passed by Parliament in August.

“The government accuses us of insulting Parliament, but they themselves are to be blamed for this,” he said.

The eminent social activist reiterated his plans to tour the five states where legislative elections are scheduled for early next year and campaign against the Congress.

“After the passage of a strong Lokayukta law by the Uttarakhand government, many state governments had asked for direction from the central government to enact similar legislation. However, the central government has remained silent on that, which proves that they are not sincere in fighting corruption,” he said.

A belligerent Hazare said the public would teach the government a fitting lesson for its “betrayal”.

Former top cop Kiran Bedi, another key member of Team Anna, lambasted the government. “Have you ever heard of an investigating body that has no investigation powers?” she asked. “It is better not to have such a Lokpal as it will destroy whatever is left of the CBI. Are we dumb citizens who can be given anything?”

NCPRI happy with the Grievance Redressal Bill
Although Team Anna expressed disappointment over the Grievance Redressal Bill introduced in Parliament on Tuesday, Venkatesh Nayak of the Aruna Roy-led National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), cautiously welcomed it.

“Although we have our reservationsabout 16 points in the Bill, on the whole the draft is a welcome move by the government,” hetold DNA. The issue ofa separate redressal bill had sown the seed of discord between one-time friends Kejriwal and Aruna Roy, with both accusing the other of high-handedness in the matter.

Asked if the NCPRI would take part in the 3-day fast and further agitation announced by Hazare from December 27, Nayak said, “The future course of action of the NCPRI would be decided once the government introduces the Lokpal Bill in Parliament.”

Lokpal Bill: Anna Hazare's Mumbai fast may cost team Rs 50 lakh

Anna Hazare has realised that holding an agitation now comes with a price tag. A 15-day proposed agitation at the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) would set Team Anna back by a cool Rs 50 lakh, something the crusaders against corruption had not bargained for.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has issued a primary permission to Anna Hazare and his men to hold an agitation at the MMRDA grounds at the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), but the rental, parking and security charges may force Team Anna to look for another venue since the costs are turning out to be rather prohibitive.

Team Anna has booked the MMRDA grounds from December 26 to January 10, but has not finalised the dates yet. And apart from paying a rental of Rs 2 lakh per day to MMRDA, Team Anna will also have to pay additional charges for electricity, security and traffic management, including parking charges. MMRDA deputy commissioner Anil Wankhede confirmed that Team Anna has asked for permission to use the MMRDA grounds at BKC for their agitation which has been issued to them, subject to clearances from the police and fire brigade.

Team Anna has been given a 30,000 sq metre plot in the G Text block of the BKC for 15 days instead of the original demand for one month. Wankhede said that a plot of 30,000 sq metre is available at BKC. "Since the plot is available for 15 days, we have told the organisation, India against Corruption (IAC), about the same. The rate applicable will be different in 2011 and 2012. In the first five days of 2011, we will charge IAC Rs 6.40 per sq metre per day, and in the first 10 days of 2012, we will be charging them Rs 8.40 per sq metre per day."

Team Anna will also have to pay electricity charges which include a security deposit of Rs 5 lakh. Hiring of fire brigade services is compulsory. So, fire charges will be collected at Rs 50,000 per day which will add up to around Rs 7.5 lakh for 15 days. In addition, parking charges and traffic management charges for 15 days will be close to Rs 7.5 lakh. So, the total charges for a 15-day agitation will work out to be a little over Rs 50 lakh. However, Team Anna members aren't amused and feel the charges are absurd.

Said Praful Vora, a member, "IAC volunteers are shocked at the expensive charges of hiring the MMRDA grounds: it is roughly Rs 2,00,000 a day. How can a poor man like Annaji, who is leading a civil protest , expect to pay such a sum to the Maharashtra government? MMRDA should not apply a commercial policy to IAC since we are working for a public cause, a not-for-profit movement, and we can't afford such sums like commercial entities can. IAC will write to the chief minister asking for a solution as a civil movement can't afford such hefty costs." For the moment, though, the cost of an agitation stands at Rs 50 lakh.

Mob rains eggs, stones on P Shankar Rao

HYDERABAD: Just as social activist Anna Hazare has his detractors, 'Andhra's Anna Hazare' P Shankar Rao too has them, albeit slightly more disposed to violence. The handlooms and textiles minister was rained with eggs, tomatoes and stones when he went on Tuesday to the NTR Nagar locality to console the family of a local who is fighting against land encroachment allegedly supported by home minister Sabitha Indra Reddy and her son Karthik Reddy. The nearly 300strong mob, allegedly all supporters of the home minister, shouted that Shankar Rao himself was a land grabber.Around 12.30 p.m., Shankar Rao reached the slum to console the family of Jahangeer Ali, a local leader and historysheeter, who was fighting against some local Congress leaders who were trying to vacate the slum and grab the land. The local leaders are said to have the support of the home minister and her son. Jahangeer had recently fallen ill and was admitted to a hospital and the minister had gone to console his family. But the minister's convoy was greeted with boos and accusations of land grabbing. Even as police tried to make way for Shankar Rao's vehicle, the mob attacked the vehicle with eggs and tomatoes. The minister was also hit by couple of eggs on the head and hand but he went into the house nevertheless and stayed for 20 minutes while the police outside caned and dispersed the mob. After a smooth exit from the area, Shankar Rao spoke to the media about the incident at the Secretariat. But soon after he was shifted to the Nizams Institute of Medical Sciences, complaining of low blood pressure. He underwent a medical checkup and doctors proclaimed his condition as normal.It was alleged that the police did little to control the attackers initially. It was also alleged that though the cops had got wind of the plan to attack the minister, very few policemen were posted in the locality. "I had already informed the local police about my visit, but they did not make proper arrangements, conniving with the goondas and the home minister," the minister alleged. Cyberabad police officials, however, said that adequate bandobust was made for the visit. But an angry Shankar Rao demanded that chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy remove Sabitha Reddy from the Cabinet and demanded a CBI enquiry into her assets. He also said he would give a list of the home minister's illegal properties to the Congress party high command. Meanwhile, police registered cases against two rival groups of NTR Nagar.

Lokpal bill weak, govt cheating people: Anna

Social activist Anna Hazare on Wednesday accused the government of cheating the people by bringing a weak bill to 'save corrupt politicians,' a day after the Union cabinet approved the bill. Hazare also said that the Lokpal will be ineffective without control over the Central Bureau of  Investigation (CBI).

“If the CBI is outside then how will the Lokpal be strong. This system will save corrupt politicians. If CBI comes under Lokpal then P Chidambaram would be in jail. You are saving corrupt politicians and say it is a strong Lokpal," he said.

Hazare has also dropped the idea of seeing the proceeding of Parliament when the Lokpal Bill would be discussed and will proceed to Mumbai to start his three-day fast from December 27.

From December 30, Hazare will launch a 'jail bharo andolan' against the 'weak Lokpal Bill' and thereafter, start a campaign against the government in election bound states.

The activist, who had brought fight against corruption to the forefront, also expressed strong exception to the government introducing separate draft legislation for Citizen’s Charter. He said the move will mean people will have to run from pillar to post to get grievances redressed.

“How can the Lokpal be effective when Citizen's Charter is out of its purview. A person will have to go through various levels for redressal of his grievances, what to do? It's like fooling people," he said.

Hazare has cut short his tour to South India and returned to Ralegan Siddhi from Chennai early this week and his close aides said he was preparing for a long battle with the government.

Hazare watches Tamil film in Chennai

Anna Hazare took some time off to watch a Tamil film, Muthalvar Mahatma, dubbed in Hindi as Welcome Back Gandhi, yesterday when he was to Chennai.  Anna took time to watch the film for apparent reasons.  The film is inspired by the life and ideology of Gandhi and creatively depicts what the Mahatma would do if he were to come alive today and occupy the post of Chief Minister. The film is directed by A. Balakrishnan.

The producer-director had requested Anna to watch the film twice in Pune and once in Delhi.  The anti-corruption crusader, who is in news for the Jan Lokpal movement, seemed to enjoy the movie.  Actor Anupam Kher played the role of the Chief Minister of a model State.

Meanwhile, the buzz in Kollywood is that attempts are being made by a top director to make a political thriller, which will have a character inspired by Anna Hazare.

"The script work is currently on. The movie is about the protagonist's fight against corruption. A character inspired by Anna Hazare is the role model of the hero of the film," sources say.

War over Lokpal: Anna ups ante, to fast from Dec 27

New Delhi: Social activist Anna Hazare on Tuesday dubbed the UPA government's proposed Lokpal Bill “worthless” and announced to begin his fast in Mumbai from December 27.

Even as the government is set to table the Lokpal bill in Parliament on December 27, with the winter session being extended till December 29 to pass the anti-graft law, Hazare said: "The government is not sincere on fighting corruption and trying to cheat people."

Alleging that the government draft offers limited control over the CBI, he said he would embark on a three-day fast from December 27 and urged the people to court arrest between January 1 and January 3.

The government has extended the winter session to discuss and pass the Lokpal Bill on December 27, 28 and 29. The Prime Minister has cleared the Lokpal Bill draft which wouldl now be taken up in the cabinet meet that would be held on Tuesday evening.

Not yielding to Anna Hazare''s demand, the government is understood to have decided to keep CBI out of the purview of the proposed Lokpal. This is the view that has emerged out of the discussions senior ministers, who are lawyers in their ownright, had among themselves and had reportedly recommended to the Prime Minister.

Team Anna has said extension of the winter session would be worth only if a strong lokpal bill is brought with the CBI out of government control.

"Extension will be worth if it is for a strong lokpal with the CBI out of government control and with lokpal. Everything depends on the content of the bill," activist Kiran Bedi said.

Team Anna also asked the BJP whether it was determined on lokpal as it was on issues of JPC probe into 2G scam and FDI in retail and cautioned the opposition party against "double speak" on the question of bringing the CBI under the ombudsman.

Rejecting the government's Lokpal Bill, Hazare had on Monday said he would go on another fast from December 27 and also lunch a jail bharo agitation if the Lokpal Bill that he and his associates have proposed is not tabled in Parliament.

He had also said that if a bill that is capable of putting a stop to corruption is passed and we are all very happy with it, then his fast and the jail bharo andolan on can be stopped.

Congress’s mental Kremlin

This is not in defence of the media or pleading not to shoot the messenger. There is a case for that kind of an argument but not now. There is a strong perception in the minds of intelligent people in the Congress party, and the many good souls who sincerely support them, that the Anna Hazare agitation — many in the media call it a movement — got ballast because of the 24x7 television news channels giving it disproportionate screen time.

No doubt there is a complicated relationship between an event and its coverage. Saturation coverage of an event in the media moulds the event in many ways, strengthening it in some ways and weakening it in others, the effects are unintended consequences. The relationship of an event to its media coverage is to be compared to the puzzling phenomenon in quantum mechanics where the observer alters the position of the sub-atomic particle he or she is observing. It, however, is another story that some scholar with a French intellectual’s inclination for theorising should pursue in all epistemological seriousness.

The Congress’s complaint that the Hazare phenomenon is a media-generated revolution is overstating the power of the media even in media-saturated times like ours. After the Hazare issue, there is the growing belief that all the troubles that the Congress-led UPA2 government finds itself is in is due to malicious black magic of the media is gravely mistaken. For years now, the Congress displayed an imperious contempt for the media. Indira Gandhi had famously described the big newspapers as the voices of the jute barons and not of public opinion. She might have been quite right in her class analysis.

Trouble never stems from media. It is when a political party loses the confidence of people across the country that it slides in the eyes of the public.

The Congress’s woes are of its own making. The media did not urge, and even if it did, the government was not obliged to listen, to co-opt Hazare and his friends, out of fear and out of cunning into a joint drafting committee. The media did not urge prime minister Manmohan Singh or Congress president Sonia Gandhi to write letters to Hazare, pleading with him.

Similarly, the 2G spectrum allocation scam is not the media’s work. It was the intelligence agencies that were tapping lobbyist Nira Radia and industrialists like Ratan Tata, and what was gossipy stuff of their personal interaction led to other inconvenient truths. The courts were forced to take cognisance of the whole issue because of public interest litigation petitions. Then there was the Comptroller and Auditor General report on the 2G spectrum allocation and its exaggerated figure of potential loss.

The mishandling of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October 2010 was a public spectacle. The media did not have to unearth any story. They were out there.

The media does not make and unmake governments. It is a useful conspiracy theory. There are sections of the media that do unabashedly carry out a propaganda war. That is one thing we have to accept in a democratic society. It is one of the inevitable and necessary aspects of media that it should take partisan positions. The objective, neutral Olympian vision is one among many of these partisan positions. People are not swayed by what the media say. Most of the English language media have been against reservations for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and they carried out an open campaign. The popular verdict in election went the other way.

One of the interesting lessons is from the 2004 Lok Sabha election. The media seemed to be blacking out the Congress, which had been out of power for eight years. The media was quite in favour of the ruling National Democratic Alliance. There was no anti-BJP sentiment in the air according to the media. In April 2004, Pranab Mukherjee and Kapil Sibal came for a media briefing and pleaded with the media to print and telecast what the party had to say.

When told that Mahatma Gandhi spoke directly to the people and that the Congress should do it again, Mukherjee said that in this age, media was very important. The Congress won that election because people wanted a change. The BJP, which was better than the Congress in its media-friendly attitude, believed the media and felt that it was coming back to power. The BJP and the media got the 2004 election wrong. This is just an example.

Once in power, the Congress forgot the need to keep its communication channels open. It locked itself up in its mental Kremlin. The group of ministers to deal with the media was an afterthought to deal with the political crisis created by the Hazare group. The problem with the Congress-led UPA government is that it is committing too many forced and unforced errors. It is not the fault of the media.

2011: The year of Anna Hazare

What a year it has been. For students and observers of politics, 2011 has been a remarkable year - a year when we saw multiple scams unfolding and top politicians being punished for their roles in those scams. A year when a less-known man from the village of Ralegaon Siddhi became the modern day "Mahatma", a year when the credibility of the elected class took such a heavy beating that it will take a long time for them to recover from it, a year which will go down perhaps as the worst "governed" year.

The year of 2011 began with plenty of heat being generated over the 2G scam. A Raja, the former telecom minister, was the first real big fish to be sent to jail. He was followed by several other high profile corporates, bureaucrats and finally the daughter of Karunanidhi, Kanimozhi. The impact of all these arrests is still being felt, but more on that later. After the first cache of arrests, it was the turn of Suresh Kalmadi, the czar of sporting administration, to be sent to jail for his role in the CWG scam. He, too, was followed by other high profile individuals associated with management of athletics in the country.

Just about the time when the country was hailing the powers of our investigating agencies for cracking high profile cases, raising a toast to CAG Vinod Rai for confirming what we always thought was true, came Anna Hazaare. The month of April in the national capital is known for soaring mercury. This time the temperature was rising more because of the Anna phenomenon. He came, he saw and he did conquer. For a full week, Anna Hazaare sat on a fast at Jantar Mantar demanding the passage of the Lokpal Bill. He himself hadn't realised that he will end up becoming the voice of the oppressed, of those who thought the system was against them. There was singing of patriotic songs, dancing, flag waving. This was India's Tahrir Square. We were in the midst of an Arab Spring of our own in the heat of April. From Jantar Mantar, Anna and Co. went to Ramlila Maidan in August. In between, Baba Ramdev attempted a revolution of his own, yogis taking to an anti-corruption battle but he had to face tear gas shells instead. Baba running away in the guise of a woman was one of the TV moments of the year. But Ramdev was almost like a side show in comparison to what was being done by Anna hazare.

As Anna hazare launched a no-holds-barred battle against the government, it was almost as if the Centre had run out of ideas. So a day after Independence Day, Anna was first arrested and sent to Tihar jail along with his main strategists Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi. If Team Anna was looking for an opportunity to capture the nation's imagination, then this was it. As the government blinked under immense public pressure, Anna turned the tables on the government. He refused to accept bail. His plan was clear. Either the govt would bend entirely and let him have his protest at Ram Lila Maidan for as long as he wanted or he would stay in jail.
The ensuing fortnight also created history. A special session of Parliament was called with all parties coming together to appeal to Anna to call off his fast. As Parliament remained paralysed, Anna grew in popularity. For over a week, thousands from all over the country came to Ram Lila Maidan to have a darshan of the modern day Mahatma. From April to December, we now have a rough outline of what the Lokpal Bill could be like.

Due to the sustained pressure that was created by Team Anna, it seemed as if the nation was in war mode. For months, there was no bail for the high profile accused in scams worth thousands of crores of rupees. An agitation that was started by the media was now itself coming under the scanner. Senior most lawyers in the country couldn't manage bail for any of the accused for almost six months.

So what's the big picture looking like now? Where are we as a nation, as a polity after the kind of turmoil that we have seen? For the incumbent UPA, this has been a nightmarish year. For the Opposition, it's been a year of godsend opportunities but not all of them well used. But a combination of paralysed govt and destructive Opposition doesn't augur well for us as a nation. A country with over a billion stomachs to feed needs constant governance and sometimes innovative governance.

The year of 2012 will begin with a round of Assembly elections in key political states. It's here in the electoral battlegrounds that we will get to see the real impact of Anna's campaign. Can an anti-corruption crusade be converted into a electoral campaign? Will voters vote on the basis of events at Ram Lila Maidan or is "Bijli Sadak Paani" still the main issue? It's the answer to these two questions which will determine 2011's place in history books.

Hazare keeps Maharashtra in limelight in 2011

The year's biggest newsmaker Anna Hazare, sweeping of civic polls by the ruling Congress-NCP alliance despite some strain and setback to some key leaders in these elections besides the 'rebellion' of Gopinath Munde dominated Maharashtra's political landscape in 2011.

74-year-old Hazare was the most-talked about Maharashtrian during the year. "I Am Anna Hazare" slogan was likened to the "We Are All Khaled Said" campaign of the Egypt uprising that toppled the Hosni Mobarak regime, and to some, Delhi's Ramlila Maidan resembled Cairo's Tahrir Square. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and Industries Minister Narayan Rane, both from Congress, suffered personal setbacks in municipal council elections, which otherwise saw strong performances by the ruling Congress-NCP combine.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan's remark that Congress agreeing to give the key Home portfolio to NCP was a mistake, brought to the fore the underlying unease in state's ruling coalition.
"I think it was a mistake. We should have relooked at it. I don't know of any other coalition government where the portfolios of Home, Finance and Planning are not with the chief minister," he had said.

Chavan's remarks made at a time when home minister RR Patil (NCP), who had to quit after the 26/11 terror attacks, was under fire over the July 13 Mumbai blasts, added to the discomfiture of his party's ally.

In June, the appointment of Vikas Mathkari as president of BJP's Pune unit led to a buzz that senior leader Munde, who disfavoured it, was leaving the party.

In April 2008, Munde had quit all party posts to protest against the appointment of Nitin Gadkari supporter Madhu Chavan as the BJP's Mumbai unit president. Munde was later persuaded to withdraw his resignation. Lok Sabha and assembly elections were due in 2009 and the party could not afford an important non-Brahmin leader leaving it. However, this time around Gadkari was himself at the helm of affairs in the BJP. With no major elections round the corner in Maharashtra, the BJP leadership decided not to humour Munde and what looked like a bang ended in a whimper.

Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam's statement that north Indian Mumbaikars can, if they choose to, bring the city to a halt sparked off a controversy, with Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray and his estranged cousin MNS chief Raj condemning him in one voice for playing the "Hindi card" in view of the BMC elections, due in February.

"North Indians play a crucial role in Mumbai. We are told that we, Hindi-speaking migrants, are a burden on Mumbai. This is not true. Actually, it is we who bear Mumbai's burden. If north Indians make up their mind, they can bring Mumbai to a halt," Nirupam had said.

Maharashtra saw statewide protests after the attack on Sharad Pawar in Delhi. Rasta roko were held in various parts, including Pawar's hometown Baramati in Pune district. Hazare's controversial reaction, "Just one slap?", enraged NCP workers who staged protests at Ralegan Siddhi.

Eyebrows were raised over Indiabulls' donation of Rs 2.5 crore to the Bhujbal foundation, headed by Public Works Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, which holds the Nashik Festival.

Anna ruled the cyberworld in 2011: Search data

Gandhian and civil rights activist Anna Hazare has been the most searched for man on the internet in 2011, with data suggesting that nearly 125 million people searched for him and his struggle to get a strong Lokpal Bill.

Google and Yahoo, two of the most used search platforms in the country, have named Anna amongst the most popular ‘searched names’ of the year, as they released the search data for India in 2011.

While Yahoo’s data suggests that Anna trounced Bollywood star Katrina Kaif and cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar, Google’s annual “Zeitgeist” said that the Gandhian is amongst the fastest rising people of 2011 on the internet.

The Google’s list of fastest rising terms also included the IBPS (Institute of Banking Personnel Service), which suggested a widespread interest among Indians to apply for banking jobs. Indian Railways also emerged as fastest rising search term given the increasing number of online ticket reservations.

In a sign that internet is finding more users on the mobile and is making inroads beyond the boundaries of the metro cities, Google also said the number of searches in the country touched the 125 million mark, 70 per cent of whom used the internet from outside the metros.

“This data suggests internet usage in the country becoming truly mainstream in 2011,” said Lalitesh Katrigadda, Google India’s product head. “Over 70 per cent of the search happened in non-metros. A lot of the searchs happened through mobiles and we hit the 125 million mark. For the first time, the online world heard the views of the aam adhmi.”

According to Google’s Zeitgeist, Katrina continues to reign supreme amongst Indian searchers, while Salman Khan and Anushka Sharma took the next two positions as the most searched stars. Bodyguard and Ra one were the most searched Bollywood flicks of the year.

Information on Lokpal Bill, Aadhar cards, Japan earthquake and assassination of Al Kaida leader Osama Bin Laden, also found a place amongst top searches of the year.  Yahoo’s annual search data names Anna the “newsmaker” of the year. “His 288 hour fast at Ramlila Maidan made him the face of India’s battle against corruption,” according to the internet giant, which also positioned little master Sachin Tendulkar and Katrina Kaif as second and third most popular persons based on its data.

“Some bizarre (news) stories like PETA opening a porn site, a woman giving birth to her own grandchild and kissing can cause cavities,” were also amongst the top list of Yahoo. It also highlighted interest for “cheeky numbers” like Kolaveri and D K Bose. Yahoo said it had analysed the data gathered from search terms for the selection of the most popular news stories, while Google said it had sliced and diced aggregated search queries which do not reveal individual profiles.

Hazare's proposed fast won't impact Maha civic polls: MPCC

Mumbai: Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) today that the proposed fast by anti- corruption crusader Anna Hazare in the city when elections to 10 municipal corporations are scheduled to be held, will have no impact on the prospects of the party at the hustings. MPCC spokesman Anant Gadgil said when Hazare launched his anti-graft movement for the first time, many people supported him because they felt it was an agitation against the menace of corruption. "It is now becoming increasingly clear that the agenda is anti-Congress and not against corruption. The recent municipal council elections results in the state prove that Hazare has had no effect on the prospects of the Congress and NCP. Even in Hazare's home district of Ahmednagar, Congress and NCP did exceedingly well in the elections," Gadgil pointed out. He charged that people now know the real reason behind the anti-corruption agitation. "It has been fuelled and backed by people belonging to a particular ideology," Gadgil said. Asked about MNS chief Raj Thackeray's comment that Marathi speaking people in Belgaum and other areas should give up the thought of merger with Maharashtra, Gadgil said the statement was "laughable". "MNS legislators supported the unanimous resolution in the legislature demanding that Belgaum be made a Union Territory till the issue is resolved. It looks like there is lack of communication between the leadership and the workers," he said. Congress is of the firm view that the dissolution of the Belgaum municipality was "anti-constitutional", he said.

Anna Hazare watches film on Gandhi

Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare on Sunday watched “Welcome Back Gandhi”, the Hindi version of the Tamil film “Muthalvar Mahatma”, which portrays Gandhi revisiting earth and rededicating himself to the service of the humanity to tackle the problems of the modern day society.

Mr. Hazare watched the film in a preview theatre at the request of the film producer-cum-director A. Balakrishnan.

“I visited Pune twice and invited him to watch the movie. I also met him in Delhi and made the request and he agreed to see the movie during his visit to Chennai,” said Mr. Balakrishnan, who has also made a film on former Chief Minister Kamaraj. Music director Ilayaraja scored the music for the film on Gandhi and there are 7 songs.

Hindi actor Anupam Kher played the role of the Chief Minister of a model State.

On Sunday, actor Arjun and director S.A. Chandrasekar were among those who watched the film with Mr. Hazare.

Anna Hazare threatened with HIV+ needles in anonymous letter, FIR lodged

NEW DELHI: Last week the police received a letter that threatened to inject Anna Hazare and his supporters with needles contaminated with the HIV virus. The letter said if Anna remained adamant on his Lokpal agitation, they will be attacked with the deadly virus.

The police, now beginning to take the threat seriously, have registered an FIR and begun looking for those who sent the letter. The letter states that "a needle team, which has prepared 500 HIV positive needles, would inject the virus in atleast 1,000 people at the demonstration".

This anonymous letter was sent to DCP Central office on December 9.

Delhi Police has registered an FIR under sections 505 (2) - statements conducting to public mischief, 506 (criminal intimidation) and 507 (criminal intimidation by anonymous communication) of Indian Penal Code at Daryaganj police station last week and investigations have begun. The police suspect that "this letter seems to have been posted to the DCP's office from Delhi itself".

"We are trying to ascertain the identity of the sender though, after lot of discussions, we have also come to the conclusion that it might be a prank letter sent by some criminals. But since it is related to Anna Hazare, we don't want to take any chances as there is already a threat to his life and to the large number of people who congregate at his demonstrations," said a police officer.

The letter had stated that there are around 50 "volunteers in this needle group who are trained and they would use the needles cleverly on atleast 1,000 people".

Anna Hazare's anti-graft campaign is good for the country: Narayana Murthy

BANGALORE: Software icon and Infosys' founder N R Narayana Murthy said he was hopeful that the draft of Lokpal bill, expected to be tabled in the Parliament in a day or two, would satisfy all well meaning citizens.

"Mr Anna Hazare, his team and the government have been in talks and they are discussing. I am positive that they will come out with something that will satisfy all the well meaning citizens of this country," the Chairman Emeritus of Infosys said.

Speaking to reporters at the sidelines of a function where he was conferred the Mother Teresa Award by Indian Development Foundation, he remarked that the anti-graft campaign launched by Hazare was "good for the country and there is no doubt about that".

"All Indians want corruption to come down, whether it is in the government, opposition or in the corporate world and those belonging to civil society," Murthy said. "The Prime Minister has said yesterday that they are accelerating the progress on introducing this (Lokpal) bill in the Parliament, so I think it is good. We are all very happy."

At the function, Murthy said even the projected seven per cent GDP growth for the current fiscal, as revised by the government, is pretty good in the current circumstances. But the biggest challenge is how to bring the majority poor to the mainstream.

Quoting a study which said 350 million Indians live on Rs 36 a day, Murthy lamented: "With this kind of income you cannot keep our body and soul together".

He said there were two sections of society in India. The first one was "galloping" with good economic growth. Children in these families have reasonably good education and comfort in their lives, decent health-care and nutrition.

But a vast section is still struggling and suffering. The government is indeed making efforts to make their lives better. The government cannot do it on its own and it is the duty of civil society and corporates to become an "enthusiastic" partner to ensure better lives for the poor,he said.

Is Anna Hazare fatigue creeping in?

Bengaluru's date with Gandhian Anna Hazare on Saturday, was a letdown. Not just for the city which heard no ringing endorsement of the campaign to 'Save Lokayukta', that the organizers had made their USP, but for Anna too, whose caustic comment on the all but empty Freedom Park was a sign of the times. Instead of the 50,000 and more who converged on the park when Anna was not even physically present at previous campaigns, the crowd thinned to 20,000. Even that number may be an overstatement. Is Anna fatigue setting in, asks Team DC.

There were 20,000 people at Freedom Park on Saturday to hear Anna speak, disappointing the organisers of the rally who had made arrangements for a crowd of 50,000 to 75,000.

The agenda of saving the Lokayukta's institution in the state, which was expected to sound a chord with the people, did not succeed either in bringing them out of their homes in large number to crusade alongside the Gandhian. So are we as Bengalureans losing enthusiasm for the anti-corruption movement? Or has the movement lost its momentum?

Team Anna did not help raise public enthusiasm either by its lack of focus on the issue of Karnataka's Lokayukta languishing for four months without a head during the rally that was supposed to campaign for the institution's survival.

The fact that this local institution for fighting corruption is under threat at a time when the battle for the Jan Lokpal Bill is underway was not very clearly established by those participating in it. Besides former Karnataka Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hedge, who accompanied Anna Hazare to Freedom Park for the rally, few others on Team Anna bothered to refer to it.

The only other significant reference was from freedom fighter HS Doreswamy , who deplored the state’s politics and appreciated the Lokayukta’s efforts in ridding it of the corrupt. Anna himself confined his talk to Jan Lokpal after making what appeared to be token appreciation of the people of Karnataka for honouring Justice Hegde. Other members of the IAC core committee like Kiran Bedi, Manish Sisidia and Dinesh Vaghela, chose to focus on Jan Lokpal.

As if to make up for the deafening silence on what was supposed to be the them of the rally, a pact was signed to suggest names of judges for the post of Lokayukta. But this can have hardly satisfied Bengalureans who were expecting a much more fiery attack on the state government for its not so strong support to the institution of the Lokayukta, which has brought illegal mining and land scams to light, besides a former Chief Minister to his knees.

People speak

* Some people might have slacked down a bit thinking the battle has already been won as the government has responded positively and there are all the chances of the Bill being passed soon. Moreover, people have realised that there is no moment of change; it is a continuous process - Ashwin Mahesh, IAC volunteer

* Saturday’s rally was not publicised adequately as it was arranged in a hurry. Also it is not easy to sustain any movement for this long, especially when young people are always stimulated by new things. Considering all this, 20,000 was a fairly good crowd - Mohandas Pai, Former Director Infosys

* This has been a long movement. There is certain fatigue setting in and the crowd is just reflective of it. Many were not aware that Anna’s visit was to help the fight to save the Lokayukta, which is a live local issue that people relate to - V Ravichandar,CEO of Feedback Business Consulting Services Pvt Ltd

Monday, 12 December 2011

Anna vs govt: We won't accept anybody's demand, will do what is good for country, says Salman Khurshid

NEW DELHI: As the government braced to deal with the agitation threatened by Anna Hazare, law minister Salman Khurshid tonight said the government will do whatever is good for the country.

"We are not accepting anybody's demand. We are doing what is good for the country," he told PTI when asked whether the government accepts Hazare's demands.

Queried whether the government was confident of averting the next agitation by Hazare, he said, "Agitation, I cannot speak of. But we will do our job. We will do something good for the country. I am confident we will do what we need to do."

Earlier in the day, he said Parliamentary democracy is based on discussion and there should be discussion on every issue.

Asked whether opposition did the right thing in discussing Lokpal issue outside Parliament, Khurshid said, "This should also be discussed in Parliament."

Opposition parties had shared dais with Hazare on Sunday at his fast venue and participated in a debate on Lokpal.

Poll reforms needed to debar criminals, Anna’s suggestions impractical: Quraishi

Shimla:Despite underlining the need for electoral reforms, particularly to prevent candidates with criminal records from contesting polls, Chief Election Commissioner of India S Y Quraishi on Monday said anti-graft campaigner Anna Hazare’s suggestion to include a ‘ right to reject’ voting provision was not feasible or practical. “If all voters exercise their voting rights judiciously the need of implementation of this provision will not arise,” Quraishi said.

Delivering the convocation address at the Himachal Pradesh university here, the chief election officer said there were lakhs of people lodged in jails and facing trials. “If their liberties have been curtailed, then why should not people having tainted and criminal backgrounds be restrained from entering politics. After all, the right to contest polls is not a fundamental right like the right to vote,” he said.

Quraishi was of the view that if the people which criminal backgrounds are not allowed to contest elections, it would not in any manner infringe their rights. We need to have election reforms to debar such persons from entering the politics, he added.

The election body chief referred to the honorary degree that was awarded to Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla and said: “ I feel the Himachal Pradesh university has done a wonderful job in conferring you (Shukla) this honour so that you play an important role in pushing for electoral reforms”.

Quraishi further said that efforts were being made to ensure more transparency during elections and provide more rights to voters. In his convocation address, the chief election commissioner said the election body had opened a special cell to prevent black money from being used in the polls. “The use of black money could only be stopped if people also participate and help out the Commission in keeping a watch,’’ he said.

Around 141 Phds and 114 medals were conferred on meritorious achievers during the convocation. Mritunjaya Sharma was conferred D Lit in music. Phd degrees (Honoris Causa) were also conferred upon Rajeev Shukla, Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Padamshree Pratapsingh Ganpat Rao Jadhan, Alkshendra Singh in Social Sciences and Mahesh Verma for Dental Sciences.

Governor and Chancellor of the University, Urmila Singh also spoke on the occasion. She expressed happiness that women were outnumbering the men in different achievements and said that it was a positive sign of women empowerment.

Thackeray lampoons Hazare for targeting Pawar

Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray on Friday questioned the credentials of social crusader Anna Hazare's anti-corruption campaign, claiming it appeared to target only Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.

In Maharashtra and the rest of the country, Hazare has found only Pawar to be a corrupt leader and all others are as clean as washed rice, Thackeray said in a sharp edit in party mouthpiece Saamna.

"If that is so, then is the Lokpal Bill being proposed only for Pawar? Why are you (Hazare) fasting and melting your bones at Jantar Mantar? Both Pawar and Hazare hail from Maharashtra, then why are you trying to defame the state before the rest of the country? Why are you singling him out and targeting him?" Thackeray said.

Referring to Hazare's Tuesday blog in which he alleged that Pawar has an old habit of shielding the corrupt, Thackeray demanded why Hazare was not speaking out against those supporting Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who is accused of involvement in the 2G spectrum scam. Pawar was slapped by a man in Delhi last month over price rise and corruption.

Raising doubts over Hazare's knowledge of Gandhi's philosophy, Thackeray said merely wearing a Gandhi cap does not imply there is a 'Gandhi' in you - "Read Gandhiji and experience him, he never used violence in words, thoughts or deeds... First Hazare supported the Pawar slapping incident, then regretted and then again supported it," Thackeray said, ridiculing Hazare's changing stance on the issue as bordering on "madness".

Saying Hazare was reduced to a mere "puppet" in the hands of his Team Anna members, Thackeray said they were "airing their opinions through Hazare, which is a terrible thing".

"This means that it is Hazare's waist and somebody else's dhoti (cover). These people lack courage to question Sonia Gandhi, her relatives and Bofors scam on their blog," Thackeray said.

"We shall ensure the defeat of Sharad Pawar and his Nationalist Congress Party through the ballot boxes. For this we don't need Hazare's verbal mafia language," Thackeray said in conclusion.

Hundreds express solidarity with Anna

SINDRI: Hundreds of people on Sunday joined the daylong dharna organized by the Sindri chapter of civil society to express solidarity with Anna Hazare who is on a protest in Delhi.

Besides common people, members of the Rotary Club, Lions Club, Sindri Chamber of Commerce and Gayatri Parivar also sat on dharna to support the cause.

Addressing the gathering, speakers stressed on the need for a strong Lokpal bill and autonomous CBI to bring the corrupt to book. Tearing into the UPA government's attempt to shield the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, the speakers held the Congress and its policies responsible for poverty, unemployment and lack of basic amenities in almost every part of the nation.

Coming down heavily on leaders, speakers of Team Anna said Mahatma Gandhi and Jai Prakash Narayan did not contest elections but that does not mean that their contribution to the Indian politics was less important than those who enjoyed the politics of power.

Anna and his team has created an awareness on corruption prevailing in the nation that is not going to die down so easily whatever repressive measures the government may adopt they opined and called upon the government to honour the public sentiments and pass a strong Lokpal Bill at the earliest. Deepak Kumar, Ram Naresh Singh, Ashok Sharma, Ali Ahmed Khan, Manoj Mishra, Dilip Ritolia, Vijay Singh, Uttam Mukherjee, B D Rajkumar were prominent among others who addressed the gathering.