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Anna Hazare's fast and the IPL connection

April 09, 2011 02:44 IST

Anna Hazare's decision to end his fast on Saturday comes after the United Progressive Alliance government virtually bent over backwards to accommodate all his demands, including the formation of a joint committee with five representatives of the government and five from civil society.

The Centre has also agreed to bring a government order to announce the formation of the committee that will have a co-chairman from civil society.

Hazare and his core group, which held discussions for over two hours after Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal gave Swamy Agnivesh, RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal and former IPS officer Kiran Bedi a draft on the proposed committee and the other demands which the government has agreed to, finally announced that he would not be ending his fast on Friday.

He did not give any reasons for this, but sources say that he now wants equal powers for the committee co-chairman.
It is learnt that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who has cancelled his campaign meetings in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala, spoke to Sonia Gandhi late on Friday night, soon after she returned to Delhi from her election tour of Assam.

According to sources, the government had even considered calling an all-party meeting on Sunday to let all political parties take a call on how much authority it should give up to accommodate the demands of Anna Hazare. 

Since Sonia Gandhi's public appeal to Hazare on Thursday to end his fast, there has been a flurry of political activity, with the Congress president calling a meeting of the core committee on Friday morning before she left for Assam.

Sibal, who has been handling negotiations with Hazare's representatives, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh four times. He also held consultations with Mukherjee and Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel.

Sibal, Law Minister Veerappa Moily and Minorities Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid also met Hazare's representatives.

A senior government functionary conceded that the manner in which the PM handled the issue and the government's ineffectiveness in nipping the entire movement in the bud speaks volumes for the mismanagement within the government.
Till as late as Thursday night, the government was hopeful that the issue would be sidetracked once the Indian Premier League started, according to a senior functionary in the Prime Minister's Office.

But the media continued to focus on Hazare's fast at Jantar Mantar and the march of his supporters to India Gate.

Taken aback by this, Information & Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni called a meeting of chiefs of TV channels on Friday afternoon to discuss their coverage and give them a background on steps taken by the government on the Lokpal bill.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Khurshid were also present at the meeting but like the government's other initiatives, this one came a bit too late.

With a rattled government under huge pressure to break up the gathering at Jantar Mantar, and Anna Hazare and his supporters getting a huge nationwide response along with television coverage, political leaders were not surprised when Hazare decided to go ahead with his fast till Saturday and extract more concessions from the government.

With the election process in five states underway, the last thing the Congress needs is a nation-wide campaign on the issue of corruption.

Renu Mittal