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Hazare starts week-long maun vrat

Ralegan Siddhi: Social activist Anna Hazare today began his week-long `maun vrat` (vow of silence) at his native village for "atma shanti" (peace of soul). "Anna began his maun vrat this morning. He is sitting under a banyan tree near the Padmavati temple here," Hazare`s close aide, Datta Awari, told PTI.

The 74-year-old Gandhian will stay in a `kuti` (hut) during the maun vrat, Awari said. Hazare has been continuously interacting with people after ending his 12-day-old fast for a strong Lokpal bill in Delhi in August, and this put a lot of strain on him, Awari said. The vow of silence comes close on the heels of the recent assault by suspected Ram Sene activists on a key `Team Anna` member, Prashant Bhushan, who had advocated plebiscite in Kashmir.

Hazare has distanced himself from Bhushan`s statement, saying he did not agree with it and that it was the senior lawyer`s personal view. After campaigning against it in the Hisar Lok Sabha by election, Anna Hazare had yesterday said he will work with Congress across the country if the UPA government brings a strong Lokpal Bill in the Winter session of Parliament and keeps its words on other reforms.

But he had also sent out a warning to the Congress that if the Lokpal Bill was not passed in the Winter session he will work against Congress in the coming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and four other states like in Hisar. In a TV interview ahead of his `maun vrat`, the Gandhian had said after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s latest letter to him he was encouraged that the government would bring a strong Lokpal.

"If the government brings a strong Lokpal and keeps its other promises, why should I oppose the Congress. In fact we will work with the Congress," he had said referring to the Lokpal Bill and to electoral reforms including right to reject, decentralisation and more powers to gram sabhas.

Seeking to dispel the notion that Team Anna is anti-Congress, he had denied that Team Anna had campaigned against Congress in Hisar at the behest of BJP and RSS."I have only seen him (RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat) on TV, I have never met him or spoken to him. These are all allegations. In politics, political parties are ready to do anything. The Congress, BJP and RSS are together conspiring to defame Anna. I have nothing to do with the RSS or BJP," Hazare had said.

Insisting that it was very much part of his movement against corruption, RSS had yesterday said Hazare`s comments that there was no support from the Sangh fountainhead to his Jan Lokpal campaign was beyond its comprehension. "Anna had made some comments on the RSS Chief and also indicated that he viewed the letter written by me in support of his movement as a conspiracy. These views, which were published widely in the media, go beyond my comprehension and cause immense pain to me.

"It is tragic that a person of Anna`s stature too has got influenced by narrow political conspiracy," RSS General Secretary Suresh "Bhaiyyaji" Joshi had said in a statement. He was referring to a letter written by Hazare in reply to Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh. "The views expressed in his letter would prove detrimental to the anti-corruption movement only. It will be most unfortunate," Joshi had said.

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