The soldier-turned-activist, who last year shook the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with a spirited anti-corruption campaign, will on Sunday join an indefinite fast now on near Jantar Mantar, an 18th century observatory, asking the government to introduce a Jan Lokpal Bill.
Amidst reports that Anna will launch a political party, IANS spoke to him at the Maharashtra Sadan where he is staying. Excerpts:
Q. Will you launch a political party before the next Lok Sabha Election?
A. I don't think I should launch a political party or stand in general elections... My heart does not go with it. But I will give an alternative to people. Several people have been asking him to come out with an "alternative" against corrupt politicians.
Q. What is the alternative to your own political party?
A. I will tell people they should select their leaders themselves but not from the ruling or opposition parties. They should look for candidates with a clean background and those who have done something good for the society. We need good people to be elected to parliament as we don't have good leaders from the ruling or opposition parties. We saw how the ruling party and opposition joined hands for increasing their salaries and stopping Jan Lokpal bill.
Q. Compared to your team’s previous protests, this time a thin crowd has been observed. Why?
A. I don't know why people are not coming. Our protest is not (for) gathering crowds but (to attract) people who are passionate to work for the society and country. However, thousands are simultaneously protesting and fasting in 500 districts across India.
Q. Are you bothered about people’s low turnout at Jantar Mantar?
A. I am not bothered about it. For so many years I protested in a room in (my Maharashtra village) Ralegan Siddhi. If I was bothered by crowds, I would have held those protests in a big ground," he said.
Q. How long will your protest continue?
A. I will continue to fast till I am alive to remove corruption from our system.
Hazare and his team want the Lokpal bill prepared by them to be passed by parliament in the monsoon session. He has given an ultimatum that if the government does not accept the demands by Saturday night, he will go on hunger strike along with his colleagues at Jantar Mantar.
(Richa Sharma can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)