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Anna's fast called off, but agitation to intensify

December 28, 2011 21:48 IST

Team Anna yet to plan campaign against Congress in five poll-bound states. Toral Varia Deshpande reports.

Day two of anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare's campaign for a strong Lokpal Bill began with members of India Against Corruption personally appealing to people at railway stations in Mumbai to join the agitation at the MMRDA grounds.

However, in a surprise announcement on Wednesday evening, Anna Hazare decided to call off his fast and his campaign to fill jails from Friday.    

Though no reasons were given for ending the fast, the decision seems to have been taken considering Anna's failing health and poor public response to his fast. 

A girl from Anna Hazare's village Ralegan Siddhi, gave the activist a glass of juice to break the fast.

Day two, just like day one of the agitation, saw a poor turnout. The day began with just about three hundred people in attendance at the fast venue.

Interestingly, many present at the MMRDA grounds in Mumbai were supporters of social activist Medha Patkar and the causes she has taken up in Mumbai and Maharashtra.     

By noon the doctors attending to Anna were worried about his deteriorating health. His fever continued and he showed signs of dehydration. The doctors who examined him advised calling off the fast and warned him that it could affect his kidneys.

The 74-year-old activist's sodium and chloride levels had also gone down.

"We strongly advice Anna to discontinue his fast. We are worried it may lead to kidney failure. We reaffirm that further fasting is strongly discouraged. Anna is showing signs of high dehydration," doctors said.

Soon after the doctors gave their opinion, Anna aide, Suresh Pathare, said that they were trying hard to convince Anna to give up his fast. He said Anna would possibly take a decision by evening. 

Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal continued to attack the government and said that they reject the Lokpal Bill as passed by the government in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.  

"It is a bill of the ruling party. It is a dangerous bill," said Kejriwal. "We are back to square one. This bill is a danger to the people of India," he added. 

Kejriwal said that it will take time for the situation and government to change. "But we must try. You and I, we must stand firm. Gandhiji has asked to be fearless. The fight has started and it is long. It's my request to all, young and old, to stay connected with us. And whenever we have to agitate or protest we should do it together. Hence our togetherness is important. I thank all those who have come here," he said. 

A weak but resolute Anna Hazare finally made an appearance.

"I had earlier said that the agitation will be on for three days. But because there are a lot of developments in the Parliament we are ending our agitation today. 

Jail 'bharo' was announced with the intention of passing the bill. But I think for the time being we will call off that agitation. Voter awareness is our prime motive now," said Anna 

When asked for his response to the low turnout of protestors, Anna said, "I have no power, no money, nothing. Despite that so many people have turned up, isn't it enough? One day you will see when the election time comes how people are together." 

Responding to a question on why yoga guru Ramdev Baba was being invited when he had earlier been criticised, Anna Hazare said, "This is a fight against corruption. We are all going to be fighting this war together." 

Anna Hazare countered questions on his decision to campaign against the Congress in five states that go to poll and whether he was turning political. He said that the country was going to the dogs, which need to be stopped. "Already the country is very corrupt, it's time to stop this," said Anna.

When the anti-corruption crusader was asked if he would only oppose the Congress during his voter awareness programme, Anna said that there was no reason to oppose other parties. "Those who have opposed the Jan Lokpal Bill and cheated the people time and again will be opposed, he said. 

Kejriwal said that the team was yet to plan the campaign in five states that will go to the poll.

Responding to charges that the movement was receiving foreign funding, Kejriwal said that only allegations were being made without any proof.

"Digvijay Singh keeps alleging that we are hand in glove with the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), but he never gives any proof...he only shoots in the air," Kejriwal said. 

"We are not backing out. Let the government be warned that the movement is only going to get more intense," he added.

Toral Varia Deshpande in Mumbai