New Delhi: Social activist Anna Hazare on Sunday vowed to continue his anti-corruption crusade, and if need be hold street protests and fill jails, till the government heeds the will of the people for a strong Lokpal law.

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Addressing a huge gathering at Jantar Mantar after breaking his symbolic day-long fast, Hazare threatened to intensify the stir by courting arrest if the government fails to pass a law in the winter session of parliament for a strong Lokpal that covers the entire bureaucracy and the Prime Minister under its purview.

“The government should listen to the voice of the people. Agitation will continue for a strong Lokpal,” said Hazare, flanked by leaders of various political parties who debated in favour of an effective ombudsman.

Hazare told the politicians -- including Arun Jaitley of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Brinda Karat of the Communist Party of India-Marxist and AB Bardhan of the Communist Party of India -- to fight for a strong Lokpal inside the Parliament and force the government to pass an effective law.

“You fight inside Parliament, we will fight outside. If the government disagrees you should join us in street protests,” he said. “Come to the streets for a larger campaign. Let us see how the government does not listen to us.”

He said if the Lokpal bill is not passed in the winter session, his supporters would intensify their protests and let themselves get arrested to fill the jails of India.

“Not a single jail should be left empty, such will be our campaign,” he said, to thunderous applause from his supporters.

The politicians earlier backed Hazare on having a strong ombudsman with the Prime Minister under its ambit but cautioned that he should be rigid about getting his version of the bill adopted.

Hazare began his fast at around 10:15 AM at Jantar Mantar, the protest hotspot in the capital, surrounded by a number of supporters who waved the tri-colour, sporadically shouting slogans like 'Vande Mataram' and 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai'.

"My fast has begun. I will not speak much now," he told is supporters as he also chanted 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Vande Mataram'.

Clad in his trade-mark white kurta and Gandhi cap, Hazare was received at the protest venue with a thunderous applause and sloganeering by his supporters who had gathered at the venue braving the morning chill.

Along with Hazare, prominent members of Team Anna like Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh and Kumar Vishwas also joined the fast.

Before heading to Jantar Mantar, Hazare went to Rajghat and spend around 30 minutes meditating there. "I am fine and healthy," he told reporters.

This is Hazare's third protest on the issue and second at Jantar Mantar. The first one, which was a five-day fast from April 5 at Jantar Mantar, had drawn huge crowds. The government had then set up a joint committee comprising official representatives and activists to draft the Lokpal bill.

The 74-year-old activist, who had gone on his second fast that lasted 13 days at Ramlila Maidan in August on the same issue, has been demanding bringing lower bureaucracy within the ambit of the Lokpal besides provisions for Citizen's Charter and setting up of Lokayuktas under a central law. The government as well as Standing Committee have rejected it.

Hazare has also threatened to go on an indefinite fast from December 27 at Ramlila Maidan if a strong Lokpal bill is not passed in the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament. Hazare has raised his decibel on the issue, accusing Rahul Gandhi for being behind the "watered-down" proposals of Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Lokpal bill.

At Jantar Mantar, activists sang, beat drums, waved flags and shouted slogans as people in large numbers joined the gathering.

Government not granting CBI freedom: Bedi

Accusing the government of cheating people on the Lokpal issue, Team Anna member Kiran
Bedi on Sunday claimed that it was not willing to part with control over CBI as it did not want the "hidden files in the agency's almirahs" to become public.

Speaking at Jantar Mantar where Anna Hazare is on a one- day fast, she said discussions about a mechanism to deal with corruption have been on since the time of Jawaharlal Nehru whom she accused of having failed to provide such a system.

She said what the country needs is an "anti-corruption system like the anti-crime system".

"The discussion over this has been on since Nehru's time. I wish Nehruji had given us this in 1962. He didn't. An Administrative Reforms Committee was set up instead. But nothing happened from 1962 to 2011," she said.

She alleged that the government has failed to bring a strong Lokpal Bill and that a mass agitation will continue till the goal is achieved. "We will have to fight a long battle," she said.

On the CBI issue, she said the government does not want to give up control of the probe agency because its closets are full of files which talks about the wrongdoings of those in powers.

"What all things are hidden in the almirahs of CBI? They don't want things to be made public. The Lokpal does not have investigative powers. Government has not given nothing substantial for Lokpal and, at the same time, wants to take away the powers of the CBI. We did not ask for this," Bedi said.

She alleged the government has "cheated" people and that the gathering at Jantar Mantar would pray that it gets a good sense.

Addressing the protesters, Team Anna member Manish Sisodia, who is also on a fast along with Hazare, accused the government of treating people like a football by bringing in a weak Lokpal Bill.

Kejriwal targets BJP, Congress

Targeting the political class, Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday accused the BJP and the Congress of misusing the CBI while in power. He also took on Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee for not being vocal about Lokpal like she was on the issue of FDI-in-retail.

"Successive governments have misused the CBI," Kejriwal said while addressing a gathering at Jantar Mantar, the venue of the day-long fast of Anna Hazare.

Kejriwal also criticised the government in the Taj Corridor case, alleging that the CBI had told the Supreme Court at one point that no case was made out against BSP supremo Mayawati.

"In August 2003, the CBI filed a case against Mayawati and in 2005, she was questioned. But in 2007, UP Governor T V Rajeshwar Rao, who was perceived to be a Congress supporter, refused permission for filing an FIR.

"In return, Mayawati supported the Congress and voted in favour of its Presidential candidate Pratibha Patil. In April 2010, the CBI told the Supreme Court that they are closing the case against her. Then she supported the UPA during a cut motion. But in September this year, the CBI said it was going to charge sheet her as they have evidence against her," he said.

Kejriwal also accused the BJP of using the CBI against Jayalalithaa with the support of the DMK.

Standing Committee 'betrayed' nation: Bhushan

Team Anna member Shanti Bhushan launched a frontal attack on the Parliamentary Standing Committee that went into the Lokpal Bill, accusing it of "betraying" the nation by suggesting "snatching away" of the power of investigation from the proposed anti-corruption watchdog.

"We knew that Abhishek Singhvi is an able lawyer but did not know that he is also a magician.

"The authority of investigation that was given to the Lokpal in the Bill has been snatched away. This is betrayal of the nation," Bhushan, a former Law Minister, said addressing the gathering at Jantar Mantar, the venue of Anna Hazare's fast here.

Bhushan's son and another Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan accused the government of not consulting the stakeholders before taking decision like allowing FDI in retail sector.

"The government is planning to build nuclear power plants in Jaitapur and other places for generation of power at a cost of thousands of lakhs of rupees. Why this is happening? Why
can't we generate power through thermal plants?" he asked.

Hazare insulting Parliament: Congress

As Anna Hazare stepped up his campaign for the Janlokpal Bill, Congress on Sunday accused the activist of insulting the Parliament and indulging in politics by attacking Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi.

"It is the Constitutional right of Annaji to sit on protest, but the manner in which he is trying to target Rahulji and Soniaji makes it clear that he only wants to indulge in politics," Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi told reporters.

He said as promised, the government had introduced the Lokpal Bill in Parliament and the same has been examined by a Standing Committee which has representatives from all
political parties.

"Laws cannot be made at Jantar Mantar. I have no hesitation in saying that Annaji is insulting Parliament," Alvi said, adding that the activist has had his say and should now allow Parliament to carry out its mandate.

"Parliament will debate and decide on the Lokpal Bill. Nobody is bigger than Parliament or Constitution. The country runs as per the Constitution and not by raising slogans," he said.

Alvi said the Congress will continue to fight corruption at all levels.

Left gives bitter pill to Team Anna

CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan on Sunday hit out at Team Anna for its rigid attitude on Lokpal issue, saying they should not think that only nine-ten people from their group are the repository of "all the wisdom" and represent the whole country.

While extending support to fundamental issues raised by Team Anna, Bardhan warned it against branding as "corrupt" those people who disagree with its views" and asked them to respect opinions of others as well.

"You should not think that the 9-10 people of yours are the repository of all the wisdom. There is no dearth of scholars in a country of 120 crore. Team Anna should also listen to others and have patience to listen to others," he said speaking at Hazare's day-long fast at Jantar Mantar here.

Asking Team Anna to develop the habit of respecting opinions of others, he said it should have patience to listen to other shades of opinion.

"Team Anna should not expect that each and every word it made in Jan Lokpal Bill is accepted. They should show some flexibility," he said.

Echoing similar views, CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat also disapproved of any move by Team Anna to paint all politicians as corrupt.

"Terming all politicians as corrupt from this platform is not proper. The country needs good politicians also," she said.

Bardhan, however, complimented Team Anna for inviting leaders of political parties for the deliberations and said no one should question the relevance of the political class.

"I am happy that you have invited leaders of the political parties. Better late than never. Do not underestimate relevance of the political class," he said.

(JPN/Agencies)