Hazare cut a much lonelier figure on stage this time. Giving him company were ex-Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, and ex-Haryana Lokayukta Pritam Pal.
New Delhi: Anna Hazare launched his second indefinite hunger strike against the Centre in the capital Friday. The venue — Ramlila Maidan — was the same as his anti-corruption movement that shook the UPA government seven years ago. But this time, things were much different.
Gone was the fervour and frenzy of 2011; the event and the crowd seemed flat in comparison to the heyday of the India Against Corruption movement. And yet, among the gathered crowd, there was some palpable anger against the Narendra Modi government for its unfulfilled promises.
Compared to 2011, when the India Against Corruption movement featured the who’s who of social activism, politics and other fields, Hazare cut a much lonelier figure on stage this time. The two men giving him company briefly were former Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, and former Haryana Lokayukta Pritam Pal.
Back then, Hazare’s hunger strike had become the biggest news across the country, and television crews had camped night and day, shadowing his every move. Following his lead, protests had broken out in other cities as well. This time, however, there seemed to be much fewer TV crews and far fewer cameras.
In terms of the crowd, there was still a pretty decent gathering of around 6,000 people at the Ramlila Maidan, most of them from the adjoining districts of Delhi-NCR. On the two side-stages, there were around 10-15 people each. Members of Hazare’s team were angry as they accused the Delhi Police of not allowing many of their own as well as their supporters’ vehicles to enter the city.
Hazare held 42 rallies around the country in the last few months, and had concluded that the mood of the people was simmering with anger. So he decided to make a core team and march to Delhi, the organisers said.
But the bitter experience from 2011 loomed over this decision. The core team had split in 2011, and Arvind Kejriwal, then an RTI activist, had decided to form a political party of his own, Aam Aadmi Party, and contest polls.
This time, Anna Hazare selected 25 people from different states for his core team, and made each one of them sign an affidavit swearing they would not join any political party.
Six months back, Anna Hazare and his team decided to march to New Delhi with three main demands: Lokpal, farmers’ issues and electoral reforms.
The Centre not appointing a Lokpal has been Hazare’s main contention. The previous movement was targeted at corruption and demanded a Jan Lokpal bill. The BJP, then in opposition, had actively supported Hazare. In 2013, the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act was passed by the UPA. However, no Lokpal has been appointed so far. The charter of demands says: “The Lokpal Lokayukta Act be implemented immediately and the Lokpal be appointed”.
Hegde, who received widespread acclaim for his tenure as the Karnataka Lokayukta, told ThePrint: “From experience, I know what an honest Lokayukta can do. The government should immediately implement it. But they are making one excuse or the other for not doing it.”
Second, in the wake of the agrarian distress in the country, Hazare and his team want the government to implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission. He also wants a constitutional body status and complete autonomy for the Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP).
Third, Hazare and his team have demanded that there be an electoral “right to recall” as well as a “right to reject” in the form of the NOTA option while voting.
“Modi made so many promises and we all voted for him. Four years have passed and he hasn’t fulfilled one of them. We are hardly able to survive on farm income,” said Satvinder, a young farmer from Rohtak.
Satyapal, a farmer leader from Punjab said: “No one cares about farmers in this country. Only Anna ji cares about us, so I’ve come here to support him.”