Anna issues ultimatum to Cong; battlelines drawn
IANS RALEGAN SIDDHI/NEW DELHI NO bill, no support. Drawing the battlelines, social crusader Anna Hazare on Tuesday said he would resume his movement for the Jan Lokpal bill with the October 13 by-election in Hisar in Haryana where he would campaign against the Congress. He also hit out at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for being “remote controlled”. The Congress was quick to react. Law Minister Salman Khurshid said in New Delhi that citizens were free to vote for anybody. And Abhishek Singhvi, who heads the parliamentary standing committee looking into the Jan Lokpal bill and other versions of the Lokpal bill, said the panel was not in a confrontationist mood. Taking on the Congress, Hazare said at a press conference in his village in Ralegan Siddhi, in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district, that his campaign for a strong anti-graft Jan Lokpal (ombudsman) bill would continue after Dussehra. And if the Congress blocked the law, he would ask people not to vote for it. “Depending on my schedule, I shall go to Hisar and hold a couple of public meetings there. If not I shall send a video message to the people of Hisar explaining how the Congress has blocked the Jan Lokpal (ombudsman) bill and urge them not to vote for the party,” Hazare declared. He said civil society activists had written to all the major candidates contesting the Hisar by-poll asking them whether or not they supported the Jan Lokpal bill, Team Anna’s version of the anti-graft bill. “While a majority of them have already replied in the affirmative, there is no response from the Congress. If the Congress does not clarify its stand in the next couple of days, then after Dussehra (October 6), I plan to go to Hisar,” Hazare said. The agitation would then be taken to Uttar Pradesh and to Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur, where assembly elections are due next year, to force the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to “live up to its promise” of passing Team Anna’s version of the Lokpal bill.