New Delhi: Day two of Team Anna's indefinite fast against corruption got off to a slow start on Thursday with thin crowds and leaders of the movement missing in the morning hours.

The response to the fast on the first day on Wednesday was also modest with police estimating that 2,500-3,000 people attended it during peak hours. The Team's earlier protests had attracted several hundred people.
    
On Thursday morning around 600 protesters attended the agitation, according to police but organizers expressed hope that the numbers will rise.

Key members of Team Anna- Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai- launched their indefinite hunger strike at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday. The team leader Anna Hazare is expected to join the fellow team members on the hunger strike from July 29 if the demands put forth by the Anna team before the government is not met within the four-day deadline.

On day one of the agitation, Team Anna was seen pressurizing the government for their three demands but the later appeared in no mood to hold any parleys with the anti-graft crusaders.

A tepid start is casting shadow on the effectiveness of the Hazare movement on both – the government and the common man. The million dollar question that emerges is that will the agitation by the anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare and his team turn into a national outrage like last year or will it be a flop show like the one happened in Maharashtra early this year.

Day 2: Agitators’ absence disappoint supporters

Anna Hazare and Kiran Bedi came to the fast venue Jantar Mantar only at 11 a.m., much to the disappointment of the people who had come to express solidarity with the cause.

"I came here around 8 a.m., but till 11 a.m. no one came, it was disappointing," said Ramesh Dayal Sharma, a resident of Delhi's satellite town of Faridabad

Arvind Kejriwal, one of the three Team Anna members who is fasting, left for Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh to attend a court hearing on his remarks against MPs calling them "criminals and rapists". He will join the protesters later in the day.
    
Before leaving for the court, Kejriwal said if such people will sit in the Parliament then there is no future for the country.
    
"I don't think I have done anything wrong. And if speaking truth is against the country, then I am ready to face the consequences," he said.
    
Three Demands

Besides campaigning for a strong Lokpal Bill, the Team Anna is demanding the constitution of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe corruption charges against 15 cabinet ministers.

The Team Anna has set four-day deadline for the government for getting their three demands fulfilled. The three demands are:

•    An SIT probe against Ministers
•    Fast-track courts to speed up prosecution of 162 Lok Sabha and 39 Rajya Sabha members facing charges
•    SIT to go into allegations against party chiefs

Day 1

Hazare stuck to his pet theme of bringing a strong Lokpal Bill and threatened a 'jail bharo' agitation if government does not concede to his demands and campaigning for candidates chosen by people in the next Lok Sabha elections.
    
But activists Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan indulged in a no-hold barred attacks on Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, levelling serious charges of corruption. Union Ministers P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal and former Minister Virbhadra Singh were their other targets.
    
"If Lokpal was there, Mukherjee would not have been the President. The constitution provides immunity to President from any investigation. Now Congress has put a 'chadar' (veil) of constitution on the President," Kejriwal said addressing a modest crowd which started thinning towards evening on Wednesday.

They also accused Congress and BJP of indulging in corruption.

A dramatic start


The protest started on a dramatic note as around 20-30 suspected NSU(I) supporters broke into sloganeering against Kejriwal while Team Anna member Kumar Vishwas alleged they were in possession of an audio clip in which some activists were purportedly taped saying "Give Anna a push and beat up Arvind and Manish". The anti-Anna protesters were sitting in front of the dais wearing 'I am Anna' caps.
    
NSU(I) denied any involvement and condemned the incident, saying it might be the act of "anti NSUI" people trying to harm the outfit's image.
     
V Narayanasamy, Minister of State in the PMO, dubbed as "baseless and unfounded" the allegations that NSUI activists had tried to disrupt Team Anna's agitation.

Government refuses to budge

Reacting to the protest, Union Minister Salman Khurshid took a dig at Team Anna saying they were raising issues which have been rejected by the Supreme Court and if they did not have any faith in it, they could approach the United Nations.
    
Referring to Union Minister Ambika Soni's remarks, he said Team Anna is ready to fight their case. "If we are wrong, file defamation cases. We are ready to face," he said.
    
Refuting Team Anna's allegation that government was not sincere in ensuring passage of the Lokpal Bill, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said the proposed law was being examined by a select committee of Parliament.
    
"The bill has been passed in the Lok Sabha. It was brought to the Rajya Sabha, which is mandatory. There were over 185 amendments. There was so much discussion. It could not be passed," she said.
    
Noting that government has been making sincere efforts to bring the Lokpal bill, she said it was sent to select committee as members of Parliament wanted the legislation to be "powerful" and "complete". "Parliament of India is already looking at it," she said.

Referring to government bringing the Whistleblowers' Protection Bill and Citizens' Charter and Grievance Redressal Bill, Soni said UPA was committed to bringing transparency in governance.
    
BJP’s political game

However, BJP came out in support of Team Anna's agitation hitting out at Congress for its alleged attempts to disrupt the movement and said it does understand the restlessness in the ruling party over charges of corruption levelled against its ministers.
    
BJP also attacked Khurshid for "mocking at" Hazarre asking him to seek justice from the UN instead and said the people were listening to the voice against corruption and such statements would prove costly to him and his party.
     
"We condemn the act of certain Congress activists who wanted to disrupt the dharna of Anna Hazarre and his team. It is unacceptable, it is undemocratic and every individual has the right to put forward his or her point of view and protest democratically," BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.

JPN/Agencies

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