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Summer break keeps US lawmakers from meeting Hazare

August 23, 2013 14:20 IST

Summer break keeps US lawmakers from meeting Hazare

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Not a single American lawmaker met the anti-corruption crusader during his visit to Capitol Hill, reports Aziz Haniffa.

It was billed as a ‘Congressional luncheon on Capitol Hill to meet and greet Anna Hazare, the Face of India’s Fight Against Corruption’; but it being summer recess, not a single United States lawmaker met the activist. All US representatives and senators were in their constituencies or on congressional delegations overseas.

About two dozen first-generation Indian-American retirees made up the audience on a working day, and some junior congressional aides manning the largely bare offices -- who also slipped out soon. Because Kisan Baburao ‘Anna’ Hazare’s soliloquies were in Hindi with no simultaneous English translations, the gist of which followed only after he had completed his full speech.

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Image: Anna Hazare outside Capitol Hill, Washington DC
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Hazare spoke of everything from the ‘model village’ he had developed in Maharashtra along with his oft-repeated threat that if his Lokpal Bill is not adopted by Parliament and enacted into law, he would begin a fast unto death on the first day of the Parliament’s winter session.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had assured him, Hazare said, that his Lokpal Bill would be tabled in the current session of Parliament. Even if it is tabled in the current session, Hazare said, it was a significantly watered down legislation from the one he had proposed.

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Image: Hazare takes a tour of Capitol Hill
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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“They have not given any outline or any specifics about the bill about what they promised and so we feel cheated,” he said. “We are still waiting to see if something good will come out of this (government of India’s) bill and will look into it. If again we are betrayed by the same people, we are going on agitation on the upcoming winter Parliament. We are not just playing with words; we are also strategising. And don’t worry, elections are coming and we all have to be part of it.”

Asked if he had any message for US President Barack Obama or Secretary of State John F Kerry, Hazare said, “I am not that tall to give a message to anyone, but still I would say… I am for world peace. I believe the world can be more peaceful and all the national leaders of the world, they should think and try to create paths for world peace.”

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Image: Hazare tallks about the Lokpal Bill to Indian-Americans in Capitol Hill
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Asked how India could produce the right people to run for political office, Hazare said every ballot in India should have ‘Dislike’ and ‘Like’ buttons. “So, when people do not like any of the candidates standing for election, there will be more votes for the dislike part of the ballot and a re-election would happen.”

In such a situation, he said, “There wouldn’t be spending tons of money every time there is a ‘Dislike’ winning in between all the criminals,” and thus “they would stop spending money and corruption cannot hurt the constituency in the area.”

He said there was “no room for party politics” in the Constitution. 

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Image: Hazare interacts with Indian-Americans at Capitol Hill
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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“There is no party in the Constitution, and so we should have democratic governance and not party governance,” he said.
He said during the past few months he had been traveling across India “to get the people with the right character, the clear mix and send them to power in both the Houses (of Parliament).”

The anti-corruption crusader said that he had at the ready 50,000 youth “who are willing to give one year of their lives for the cause of anti-corruption movement and other social things.”

He was asked what difference even the Lokpal Bill he was pushing for would make in India, which had good laws but poor implementation, Hazare argued, “With whatever broken system we have, we have sent 400 corrupt officers, six cabinet ministers to their home.”

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Image: Hazare walks in the empty corridors of Capitol Hill
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Dr Parthasarathy Pillai, chairman emeritus of the DC chapter of the National Federation of Indian American Associations, called Hazare “a great disciple and follower of Mahatma Gandhi. Very few social activists have captured the attention of Indians across the globe as Hazare did during his fast for the issue of the Lokpal Bill in New Delhi in April 2011".

"A Gandhian by outlook and practice, Hazare has become the face of India’s fight against corruption and during his fast over the Lokpal Bill, he managed to inspire and mobilise the support of even ultra-modern Indians. The Anna Hazare fast can be described as the first Indian social networking movement in India. The sheer commitment and simplicity he has demonstrated that Gandhian principles are relevant even in the 21st century of India,” he added.


Image: Hazare sits in the office of US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in Capitol Hill
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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