India activist says supporters override Parliament

Reuters , Sunday 21 Aug 2011

Fasting in protest to rampant corruption, Indian activist Anna Hazare stresses the strength of the people's parliament, pushing for the passing of his anti-graft bill

A supporter of Anna Hazare wearing a handcuff holds a portrait of Hazare as he attends a protest against corruption in Hyderabad, (Reuters).

An activist on a hunger strike to demand that Indian lawmakers pass his anti-corruption bill said on Sunday that his supporters comprise a "people's parliament" above the nation's elected assembly.

Anna Hazare vowed during his sixth day of fasting to carry on indefinitely unless legislation is passed by 30 August creating an anti-corruption watchdog with authority over the judiciary and prime minister's office.

Hazare's campaign has received non-stop media attention and widespread support among both wealthy and poor Indians fed up with rampant bribery and favouritism. But some have accused the 73-year-old activist of hijacking public policy and disrespecting the legislative process by trying to force elected officials to bow to his own agenda.

Hazare told thousands gathered on Sunday around his protest stage in a New Delhi park that the "people's parliament is higher than the national Parliament."

He accused lawmakers of looting the national treasury, but said, "people who are the masters have awakened," and must send corrupt officials to jail.

Parliamentary progress on addressing issues like malnutrition and land reform has been bogged down by bickering between governing and opposition parties that have both been sullied by a string of scandals in the past year.

The government faces corruption allegations over the murky sale of mobile phone licenses and the hosting of last year's Commonwealth Games, which together are estimated to have lost the country as much as $40 billion, while the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party is mired in a multibillion-dollar bribery scandal over mining contracts in southern India.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says his government wants a political and public consensus on a strong anti-graft bill, and suggests that process will take time.

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