Anna Hazare, others to call off fast tomorrow

New Delhi: Team Anna today blinked in the battle of attrition with the Government by announcing plans to end the indefinite fast tomorrow evening as it pitched for an alternative to the current political system.

Anna Hazare`s announcement on calling off the agitation demanding Lokpal Bill at 5 PM tomorrow came on a day when a group of eminent personalities, including jurist V R Krishna Iyer and former Army Chief Gen V K Singh, appealed for an end to the fast as the health of Arvind Kejriwal and two others deteriorated.

"We will end the fast tomorrow at 5 PM," Hazare said at the end of an address in which he enunciated the civil society`s approach to forming a political alternative. The end to the fast also comes in the wake of the government`s steadfast attitude in not engaging with Hazare and his team, a year after both sides were involved in drafting a law and Parliament adopting a "sense of House" resolution on passage of Lokpal Bill.

On the earlier occasions in April and August last year, the Government appeared to have come under pressure from Hazare`s protests which drew huge crowds in the capital and elsewhere. The protest fast has been marked by low turnout, contradictory statements and levelling of wild charges against government and its functionaries. While Hazare refused to attack Pranab Mukherjee after he became President, his team members continued to level allegations against him.

Talking about providing an alternative to the current system, Hazare ruled out launching or joining a political party but asked people to come out with ideas on how the alternative can be provided. "It is time for us to think of an alternative. We want a political alternative. But I will not launch or join a party. People should decide who should be given tickets and how to achieve that alternative system," he said.

Questions still remained as to what Team Anna would do regarding the political alternative and whether they would launch a party themselves. Hazare said they have to see how candidates are to be selected to ensure that honest and clean people enter Parliament. "I agree with people that there should be a political alternative. It should be a secular alternative. But when you talk about an alternative, how we will ensure that only honest person are selected," he said.

In a similar refrain, Kejriwal said candidate selection is an issue. "We are apprehensive whether the alternative also becomes the same as the present," he said. In their appeal to Team Anna, the eminent persons said the government has turned its back to the agitation and has also not shown political will to punish corrupt people and the opposition also does not fare well on the issue.

"Do not expect anything from this political class. We request Anna Hazare and other fasting activists to channelise their efforts in setting up a political alternative, to give a responsive, democratic and non-violent system," they said. "Indian democracy needs a new direction. We request people who are fasting to request this historical challenge and call off their fast.

"Instead we call upon them to focus their energies on creating an alternative political force that is democratic, accountable, ethical and non-violent and capable of leading an electoral revolution to democratise and decentralise power and make the power structures of the country more accountable to people," the appeal said.