Anna gets Ramdev backing, Congress and BJP at war

Indo Asian News Service

New Delhi, June 7 (IANS) The aftershocks of Baba Ramdev's forced ouster from Delhi were felt Tuesday as civil society activists led by Anna Hazare upped the ante in the campaign on corruption while the Congress and the BJP stepped up their war of words.

After being prevented from going on a hunger strike for a day at the very spot where his five-day fast in April forced the government to take steps to enact a Lokpal bill, the 73-year-old Hazare vowed to fast at Rajghat - the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi - Wednesday to protest the police assault on Ramdev's supporters.

'Come what may, I will fast,' a defiant Hazare announced, after police cited orders banning the assembly of five or more people in parts of Delhi to prevent the Gandhian and his associates from gathering at the Jantar Mantar monument in the heart of the city.

Implicitly throwing its weight behind Hazare and Ramdev, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Tuesday took on the Congress-led government, saying that it suffered from a 'structural defect'.

Arun Jaitley, the opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha, said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had 'no power' and Congress president Sonia Gandhi had 'no accountability' while holding the real strings of power.

Hazare has said he will fast from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday. Activist Arvind Kejriwal told reporters that added that they did not want a confrontation with police by insisting on the Jantar Mantar site.

But the civil society activists made it clear that Hazare and others were cut up with the government. Kejriwal said it appeared to be giving an impression that it was bent on protecting the corrupt.

'The credibility of the government is definitely in danger with the kind of actions they have done,' he said, referring to the assault on thousands of Ramdev supporters at the Ramlila ground after midnight Saturday where the yoga guru was on fast.

Hazare and others boycotted Monday's meeting of a 10-member panel formed to draft a tough Lokpal bill to protest the crackdown on Ramdev, who is now back at his ashram in Hardwar.

At his ashram, Ramdev continued his fast against corruption but said he had 'forgiven' the government for the midnight police onslaught that left more than 100 people injured, some seriously.

He also announced support for Hazare.

'The government is trying to curb peaceful protesters. But thousands of my followers will participate in Hazare's fast tomorrow,' he said. He added that Hazare and he were together in the war on corruption.

He alleged that police were trying to destroy the evidences of their 'atrocities' by seizing the closed circuit television (CCTV) footage set up at the Ramlila ground.

The crackdown on Ramdev and his supporters has triggered an open war between the Congress and the opposition.

'There are too many power centres in the Congress,' Jaitley said referring to the government's initial attempt to woo Ramdev and its later decision to come down hard on him.

But the Congress in turn picked on a dance by BJP leader Sushma Swaraj at the Rajghat when party leaders were holding a protest Monday.

'Why she was dancing, it is not clear... They should be ashamed. They should seek an apology from the people,' said Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh, who is also the most vocal critic of Ramdev in the party.

On Monday, Manmohan Singh said the police action was unfortunate but unavoidable.

Clearly, the ripples of the crackdown are still being felt.