VK Singh, AAP leader Gopal Rai lock horns at Hazare’s fast in Ralegan Siddhi

Ralegan Siddhi, Dec 13: As veteran social activist Anna Hazare’s indefinite hunger strike for a strong Jan Lokpal Bill entered fourth day today, the fast venue was witness to a battle of words between Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Gopal Rai and former Army chief General (retired) VK Singh.

Trouble began when General Singh, without naming AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, attacked him and his new party, alleging that he was extracting mileage from his association with Hazare.

“We shouldn’t split and form different groups in our fight against corruption. There are some who think they are even bigger than Anna,” General Singh said.

General Singh’s remarks reportedly irked Rai who then got into an argument with the former. As the matter heated up, Hazare intervened and asked Rai to leave the venue.

“We haven’t asked you to fast, if you want to create such noise then you can leave Ralegan Siddhi,” Hazare told the AAP member.

Later, Rai criticised General Singh for politicising the gathering that was organised for Jan Lokpal.

“Someone who deserted Anna and joined hands with Narendra Modi is accusing others of betrayal,” he said.

The anti-corruption crusader, who started his fast-unto-death on Tuesday to press for immediate passage of Jan Lokpal Bill in Parliament, said that he won’t buckle under government pressure and this time it will be a do or die situation.

The demand for a Lokpal Bill was seen as a revolutionary anti-graft movement, which in 2011 not only drew tens of thousands of Indians united against corruption onto the streets, but also stopped parliamentary proceedings and dominated the headlines for days on end.

But 18 months on, India Against Corruption (IAC) – a popular movement led by a group of the country”s prominent social activists – has split due to the decision by some members to move from activism into politics.

The IAC movement, launched in December 2010, marked the first time in India that both the poor and the middle classes were united against corruption in such large numbers.

Over the past year, India has been transfixed by a campaign led by Anna Hazare to force the government to create an ombudsman, which would prosecute corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.

Hazare’s initial hunger strike brought millions of sympathisers out on streets and forced the government into a series of humiliating U-turns.

But “Team Anna” had lost some steam. When Hazare launched his third hunger strike in Mumbai, just before the New Year, very few turned up and he had to call it off prematurely because he was ill.

The proposed bill envisages the setting up of a national anti-corruption watchdog to check financial mismanagement and corrupt practices that have deeply pervaded several democratic and civic institutions of India. (ANI)