5:30 pm: Team Anna member Kiran Bedi says they will help people choose the best political candidates during elections.
“We must all search for Anna Hazare‘s within ourselves,” she said. Not the septuagenarian part of you, but the part of you that is about honesty, hard work and other good qualities, she said.
“If you really respect Anna then you should walk on the path of righteousness,” she said.
The crowd now sings ‘Ae Maalik Tere Bandhe Hum’, which Bedi says is the same song undertrials in Tihar Jail used to sing.
5:00 pm: And here are the questions you need to answer for the future course of Team Anna. Somehow answering them seems to require a lot more thinking than answering questions like: Are you against corruption or not?
1. How to select candidates from people? How to ensure their credentials?
— Aam Aadmi Party (@AamAadmiParty) अगस्त 2, 2012
2. How to contest elections without spending money (unlike other political parties)?
— Aam Aadmi Party (@AamAadmiParty) अगस्त 2, 2012
3. How to enlighten voters to vote on issues and not any other factor (caste, alcohol or money)?
— Aam Aadmi Party (@AamAadmiParty) अगस्त 2, 2012
Please email your answers to email@example.com
— Aam Aadmi Party (@AamAadmiParty) अगस्त 2, 2012
4:45 pm: Yogendra Yadav, who earlier wrote to Anna Hazare asking him to call off his fast, defended the decision by Team Anna to get more involved in politics saying that it will not divide votes.
“The question is if they enter elections will it provide a political alternative?” he said.
It’s hard to say what might happen next and they have a good chance to bring about changes, but that remains to be seen, Yadav tells Times Now.
He’s not the only one sitting on the fence for now. It’s safe to say many of Team Anna supporters may be a little puzzled about what will happen next with the movement.
Its time to be a little smug at this and point out that Firstpost’s Danish Raza had written about Team Anna entering politics. (Read here) And according to him, if they do form a political party the front runners for the party’s name could be either ‘Swaraj’ or ‘India Against Corruption’.
4:25 pm: Manoj Sisodia of Team Anna says they had decided to call off their hunger strike after the government refused to respond to their demands and didn’t look like they would respond any time soon.
4:00 pm: Firstpost‘s Danish Raza reports that Team Anna will call off its fast tomorrow at 5 pm.
Meanwhile, the supporters of Team Anna are protesting outside the BJP headquarters in Delhi.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, may be breathing a sigh of relief over Team Anna calling off their fast, but she’s certainly not showing it and said it was always obvious the anti-corruption activists wanted to enter politics.
“Now people know they want to form a political party. If they want to change the system they must know how difficult it is to be a public servant,” Soni said.
“You can’t hold a government to ransom,” she said, adding that it was not true to say the government was not passing the Lokpal Bill
3:55 pm: Kiran Bedi tells the audience that Anna Hazare is willing to help give them a political alternative but they need to give suggestions on what the future course ahead should be.
Team Anna is now seeking alternatives on whether they should form a political party or not. Its finally down to an SMS poll where people can say what the next course of action should be. Perhaps the closest the movement has ever been to a reality television show.
3:50 pm: Kejriwal said that people should give their opinion on how to prevent corruption among political candidates.
“We have no links with any political parties. We don’t want the Congress to get out of power and we come to power,” he said.
We want a change in society, not just in government, he said, adding that the movement is about taking power back to the people.
Kejriwal has asked people across the country to send in their suggestions on how to elect the right candidates to power across states. He has given them a deadline of two days.
3:45 pm: It seems that there will be a course correction by Team Anna now and Kejriwal said there are many questions that people need to answer if they want a political alternative to be offered by the anti-corruption activists.
“We need to ensure that the right candidates are chosen to go to Parliament….If we choose the wrong candidates then there is no point in the agitation,” he said.
3:40 pm: Arvind Kejriwal now addressing the audience and tells them about the letters asking them to call of the strike.
“They have written to us to call off the hunger strike since this deaf and dumb government and which is full of corrupt people will not bring about a Lokpal or create a SIT,” he said.
They have appealed to call off the strike and give the country a political alternative, which is not a political party, he said.
“This is a people’s agitation. They started it and they will decide its future course. We cannot refuse the sentiment of the people. All inside Jantar Mantar have said to form a political alternative,” Kejriwal said.
If people want us to form a political alternative then Anna Hazare said that we must bow to their wishes, he said.
3:35 pm: So is the movement going to go with forming a political party? A normally blunt Hazare’s still not giving anything away on whether they will call off the fast to form a political party.
“When this new party’s people become legislators only then will the Lokpal be created,” he said, adding that the new legislators will be able to resolve all the problems plaguing farmers, labourers and others.
He says they are still thinking about the issue of forming a political party and there are many factors to be considered.
“If you think you have solutions for the problems of forming an alternative then send them across to us,” he said.
“We will decide then whether to call off the fast or not,” Hazare said, adding that many who are part of the hunger strike are suffering due to the hunger strike.
3:30 pm: Hazare continues to talk about alternatives. He asks the country about what to do next but when people in the audience try and shout something to him, he tells them to keep quiet for now.
“I will not contest any elections or take part in politics, but the question before me is how will we decide whom to back in the elections,” he said.
Many of you are saying that we should give a political alternative but I urge you to think about we can ensure we pick the best candidates, Hazare said.
“Jantar Mantar is not the country. We need to create the environment in here across the nation and we need to think about this,” he said.
If we can include all the gram panchayats and sabhas in our movement than we can bring about a change, Hazare said, adding that all local bodies representatives should be chosen on the basis of their honesty.
3:15 pm: After days of fasting Hazare says he is in agreement with those who want an alternative but says without checks and balances it has no purpose.
“That we will have to give a (political) alternative, I am in agreement with it,” Hazare said.
However, he stayed away from outright declaring the creation of a political party.
“Until the mentality of Parliamentarians is changed there is no point in a alternative,” he said.
He said the challenge before the people would be choosing candidates who would put the nation’s benefit in mind when they are to contest elections.
The anti-corruption activist said he would not be part of the political alternative.
“I will not be in any political party but will support it from the outside,” Hazare said.
If we have to give a alternative then we need to have an electorate that seeks only the best out of its candidates, he said
“I am in agreement with those who want an alternative but if we don’t have people who are good candidates it has no point,” he said.
“It is the responsibility of Indians to find people who are working, have love for nation,” Hazare said.
2:15 pm: And here’s the full text of the letter written by the 22 eminent personalities seeking that the anti-corruption activists stop their hunger strike.
The letter seeks that Anna Hazare and his supporters call off their fast, form a political party and create a new front for the people to support in the elections.
As Firstpost’s Akshaya Mishra pointed out in his piece (read here) about various social movements coming together to create a political revolution in the country, is this the first sign of it?
Here’s the complete letter written to Team Anna (courtesy India Against Corruption):
2:05 pm: Now Art of Living preacher Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has also appealed to the anti-corruption activist to call of his hunger strike. Not surprisingly he’s taken to Twitter to send the message:
Team Anna-Please listen to me.End the fast today!We are all united in the cause & will take it forward.The country needs you hale & healthy.
— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (@SriSriSpeaks) अगस्त 2, 2012
Hasn’t been getting the best reaction though with one even questioning his absence this year while being actively involved in the movement last year.
1.25pm: The Congress has reacted to Team Anna’s question on whether or not it should form a political party, saying that its motive had always been to create a political party.
1.05pm: Prashant Bhushan has made a speech to the people at Jantar Mantar, and asked the assembled crowd if Team Anna should make a political party. “All the people listening to us, watching us tell us if Team Anna should form a political party”, he said.
He told the people to send them their thoughts on the matter in the next two days through various means of communication, including Facebook, letters, emails and SMS.
Just prior to Bhushan’s speech, Anupam Kher read a statement of solidarity by 22 ‘prominent members’ of society.
23 eminent citizens made an appeal to Anna+to give up fast and offer instead a political alternative! See encl list! twitter.com/thekiranbedi/s…
— Kiran Bedi (@thekiranbedi) अगस्त 2, 2012
“We call upon Anna Hazare and all his associates who have been on an indefinite fast, to give up on their expectation from this political establishment. Instead, we call upon them to focus their energies on creating an alternative political force that is democratic, accountable, ethical and non- violent and capable of leading an electoral revolution to democratise and decentralise power and make the power structures of the country more accountable to the people,” said the appeal which was also signed by former Army chief General V K Singh, retired Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde and political scientist Yogendra Yadav.
“Indian democracy stands at crossroads. It needs a new wind. We urge the fasting volunteers to give up their fast in order to accept this historic challenge. We also urge all democratic citizens, movements and organisations to join hands with them for creation of such a movement,” read the appeal.
12.58pm: In an aside from the main action, police have arrested the man who assaulted Sharad Pawar in Delhi last year, and have taken him away.
12.30pm: Anupam Kher has begun addressing the crowds at Jantar Mantar. Hitting out at the ‘corrupt government’, Kher said the agitation against corruption to go on. He added, “We don’t want people to ask why India is so corrupt if it is developing”.
Kher also asked why the government was turning a blind eye to the Jantar Mantar protest. “It’s not just Team Anna, so many people are protesting. Why is the government not responding?”, he asked.
The actor also tweeted out an image of the crowds at the venue, calling them all “soldiers against corruption”.
Crowds at Jantar Mantar. Overwhelming feeling. twitter.com/AnupamPkher/st…
— Anupam Kher (@AnupamPkher) अगस्त 2, 2012
12.14pm: Prominent television actor Archana Puran Singh has also appealed to all Indians to extend their support to the movement. “Why can’t you give eight hours to the people who have not eaten for eight days? Come out on the streets and be a part of the movement”, she said.
Actor Parmeet Sethi echoed Singh’s call, saying “Wherever you are, come out and be part of history.” The actors comments come even as Team Anna tries to drum up more support for its protest in Jantar Mantar, where Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai have been fasting for nine days now.
There is growing concern for Kejriwal in particular, who is a diabetic.
11.47am:Actors Anupam Kher, Archana Puran Singh and Parmeet Sethi have arrived at Jantar Mantar to join the Team Anna protest. Anupam Kher appeals to Team Anna to break its fast. He says he fully supports the cause and is worried about the health of Kejriwal, Sisodia and Gopal Rai.
Kher also said that nothing concrete would come out of a dialogue with the government.
11.00am: Team Anna member Kiran Bedi has said that she is not going to stop anyone from fasting. “They are here for a sacrifice. They are here for a cause. For them the cause is supreme. They will not be be prevailed upon, they are quite determined”, said Bedi to a group or reporters at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday.
Bedi’s comments come even as concern grows for Arvind Kejriwal’s worsening health condition. Team Anna members Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai are also fasting, with the protest entering its ninth day. Government doctors have been requesting all three members to enter hospital, but the team members are refusing to budge.
Meanwhile fearing that police would force the activists into hospital, Team Anna supporters kept vigil throughout the night.
Jittery supporters were watching the police officers so closely that even the routine change of duty of police personnel was initially perceived by protesters as a sign of mobilisation to forcibly take the three to hospital.
PTI reported that a volunteer immediately alerted others and as supporters started gathering, a senior police official informed them that it was change of duty of personnel and they were not there to take anybody to hospital.
The night also saw groups of protesters leaving for the residences of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to stage protests in a bid to step up pressure on the government to initiate talks.
The Delhi Police had yesterday advised Team Anna to hospitalise the trio and warned that they would be “squarely responsible” if anything happened to the fasting activists.
Team Anna had rejected the government hospital report advising hospitalisation, saying it was “fake” and their doctors announced that they were fit to continue the fast as their vital parameters were stable.
10.25am: With Team Anna’s protest entering its ninth day, a visibly weaker Arvind Kejriwal has refused to stop fasting, and is also continuing to refuse to be admitted to hospital.
The Delhi police had written to Team Anna yesterday, telling them that refusing to take Kejriwal and other fasting members to hospital in contravention of medical advice was against the terms and conditions under which they had been given permission for the fast.
It now remains to be seen if the police will step in and forcibly admit him to hospital.
Kejriwal on Wednesday told the assembled crowd at Jantar Mantar that he was afraid that any move to forcibly hospitalise him would result in his death, and told them that they would have to prevent that from happening.
Taking a tough stand against Delhi Police, Kejriwal said, “Delhi Police can forcibly take me to the hospital but they can not make me eat. We will resist all attempts against feeding us in the hospital.”
Later in the evening he added that he would not stop fasting until the government jailed 15 ministers against whom the team had leveled allegations of corruption.
Kejriwal also lashed out government doctors who had said he needed to be hospitalised, given his failing health and diabetic condition.
“Our team of doctors don’t believe that we need to be hospitalised. The government doctors say that we should immediately be sent to hospital. Is this a conspiracy to make us break the fast?” Kejriwal said at the fast venue at Janata Mantar in New Delhi.
The firebrand Team Anna member even questioned the report RML doctors gave to Delhi Police on the basis of which he was asked to break the fast.