New Delhi: The war of words between team Anna and the government reached a new low on Sunday with the Congress calling him “corrupt” and Hazare openly daring the Congress to prove the allegations labelled against him. Anna Hazare vowed to continue his fast from August 16 till the charges are proved wrong, even if civil society`s version of Lokpal bill is cleared in the Parliament.
In its sharpest attack ever against team Anna, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari termed the Anna Hazare-led civil society “A-Company”. Alleging that Anna was involved in corruption himself, he said, Justice PB Sawant Commission had ripped apart the "moral core" of Hazare as it "found him steeped in corruption from head to toe" and asked him to clarify its "serious findings" against him and his trusts before launching the agitation.
It should be noted that the Maharashtra state government had instituted a Commission of Inquiry under Justice Sawant in September 2003 to inquire into the corruption charges levelled by Hazare in 2003 against four ministers in the then Maharashtra government and also allegations of irregularities against Trusts run by him.
The Commission submitted its report on February 22, 2005 in which it criticised Hind Swaraj Trust for spending Rs 2.20 lakhs of its funds on the birthday celebrations of Hazare finding it to be a "corrupt" practice. It also indicted Sant Yadavbaba Shikshan Prasarak Mandal, a trust with which Hazare is associated with since its inception in 1980 for committing "illegalities" in its audits.
Responding to the allegations of the Congress party which had cited the report of Sawant Committee, Anna said, “All charges against me are baseless. If they can, let them prove it.”
“The government has already targeted other civil society members of the drafting committee on Lokpal Bill. I was the only one left. But, finally they have not spared me also”, he said.
"I am challenging the government to lodge an FIR against me and conduct an inquiry. I am not afraid of any inquiry", he said.
"Even if Jan Lokpal Bill (the version of civil society) is cleared in Parliament, I will not call off my indefinite fast, till the charges levelled against are proved or my name is cleared," he added.
Anna Hazare said he had earlier asked for a probe into the allegations of misappropriation of trust money but the Maharashtra government did not do so as "it would lead them to their corrupt ministers".
"I had written several letters -- to chief minister, home minister and police chief. To save ministers, they did not conduct a probe", he said, adding that Justice Sawant Commission has not named him for corruption while it had indicted three ministers.
"Congress receives crores of rupees as donation from people. Where are the details? Who knows about it?" Hazare asked, as social activist Arvind Kejriwal demanded that the Congress party make public its source of funding within 24 hours.
Today’s attack by the Congress party against Anna Hazare appears to be a well-thought out strategy, amidst the deadlock between the two sides on Anna’s planned fast against government’s version of Lokpal Bill from August 16.
The Congress`s hardening stand came after Hazare`s letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in which Anna had accused the UPA of adopting "dictatorial stance" and had asked Singh "with what face will he unfurl the tricolour" at the Red Fort on Independence Day on Monday.
Hazare wrote the letter to the PM after the Delhi Police granted “conditional permission” for his proposed fast from August 16.
In a strongly-worded letter to PM, Hazare had written, "Your government is trying to crush those who raise their voice against corruption. This is happening more often in your government."
Seeking Singh`s intervention, he wrote, "You are 79-years-old and are holding the nation`s top position. You have got everything from life. What else do you want from life? Show courage and take some concrete steps."
Reacting strongly to Anna’s letter HRD Minister Kapil Sibal and Information and Bradcasting Minister Ambika Soni slammed Hazare saying the language used in the letter is not Gandhian from any point of view.
Reacting to Hazare`s allegation that the government was putting impediments in his proposed fast, Sibal said, "the right to protest does not mean right to protest at a place of your choice. There is no right to protest at place of your choice and convenience”.
Soni said, “In the 64 years since independence no one has spoken like this against any prime minister, not even the opposition”.
“Was Anna’s letter to the prime minister reflective of a Gandhian mindset?” she asked.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee also targeted Anna Hazare asserting he was challenging the constitutional authority of Parliament, which was "not acceptable."
"So far as the Constitution is concerned, it is the state authority to make laws and not a third authority. Nobody can be compelled that a law has to be drafted as per his or her desire. It is for Parliament to decide," Mukherjee told reporters in Kolkata.
"And what Anna Hazare is doing is akin to challenging the constitutional authority of Parliament which is not acceptable," the Finance Minister said.
The Congress` remarks drew immediate condemnation from the opposition BJP, which called the attacks on Anna "unfortunate".
"It is Prime Minister`s responsibility to protect democracy in the country. If the people under him are behaving undemocratically, will the Prime Minister not pay attention to it?" asked BJP president Nitin Gadkari.