Anna ends fast, calls off Jail Bharo protest

Mumbai: In a sudden climb down, Anna Hazare today made a surprise announcement of calling off his campaign to fill jails from Friday and ended his fast.

No reasons were given by the 74-year-old activist for the abrupt decisions but apparently it was the poor public response to the three-day fast which he had began here on Tuesday and to have a parallel fast by his team in Delhi that weighed heavily on his mind.

He was also unwell and was earlier urged by his doctors to give up the fast. A girl from Ralegan Siddhi, Hazare`s village, gave the activist a glass of juice to break the fast. Hazare offered juice to his team members Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Mayank Gandhi.

Curtains came down suddenly on the fast with the activist, who showed up on stage for the first time sinceTuesday, making the announcement about calling it off. He also announced indefinite suspension of the `Jail Bharo` agitation planned for three days after the scheduled conclusion of his fast tomorrow.

His close aide Kejriwal said the fast was being called off keeping in mind the deteriorating health of Hazare and the way the "weak" Lokpal Bill was "bulldozed" through the Lok Sabha.

"…Whatever we are seeing today in Parliament is tragic. So I have decided to call off the fast today. There is only one way now. We will make a programme in the five states and go and awaken people there. I will tell them don`t vote for traitors," Hazare told a sparsely attended protest meeting in the afternoon.

Replying to a question by a reporter on poor turn out, Hazare said,"I have no power, no money, yet people come. You will see at the time of elections how people rise to the occasion." He said an atmosphere had been created in the entire country in favour of the proposed fill-the-jail campaign "but I am told Lokpal Bill has not been tabled in Rajya Sabha. What will happen there we don`t know. So, the time for it (jail bharo) has not come."

Fielding a volley of uncomfortable questions by media which wanted to know why he and his team were making a villain of Congress and targeting Sonia and Rahul Gandhi when several other parties too had not supported his version of Lokpal Bill, Hazare said, "Congress have destroyed the nation."

After his announcement that he and his team will campaign against Congress in the five poll-bound states early next year and later in the general elections, he was asked whether Congress was sought to be made a villain and whether the strategy adopted by them was not wrong. Hazare said they had no reasons to oppose other parties.

Hazare said he had no reason to campaign against any other party, despite a questioner pointing out that given the Congress` strength in Uttar Pradesh his drive against it would hardly alter its electoral fortunes there.

Defending Team Anna`s anti-Congress stand, Kejriwal said, "Can BSP and SP pass a strong Lokpal bill if they want to? Congress can. If it can get a weak Lokpal Bill passed…If it can get a nuclear bill passed, it can also get a strong Bill passed. The responsibility is of the ruling party." Hazare said, "In the last five months, it was the UPA government that has betrayed us. They were betraying us again and again in the past one year."

One reporter asked whether he will campaign against BJP which betrayed the Hazare campaign in Lok Sabha on Tuesday and whether Team Anna was not following a wrong strategy, Hazare said, "Congress has cheated them the maximum."

After this question, Hazare abruptly quit the dais, leaving Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia to field searching questions from the media which was heckled by the crowds that had gathered there.

Asked about the future course of action, Kejriwal said "We will build up pressure on the government to make subsequent amendments to the Lokpal Act if the bill passed in Lok Sabha is also passed by the Rajya Sabha and is made into a law. We will intensify our agitation."

In the backdrop of accusations of Team Anna`s proximity to RSS and BJP, when it was asked if they would have taken a similar stance if the saffron party was in power, Kejriwal replied with an emphatic "Yes". "We have nothing to do with any party. Digvijay Singh levels such unfounded allegations but never gives any evidence," he said.