Protests swelled across India yesterday in support of a self-styled Gandhian anti-corruption campaigner fasting to death in jail, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s struggling government at a loss over how to end the standoff.
Singh, 78, who is widely criticized as out of touch, dismissed the fast by Anna Hazare as “totally misconceived,” sparking outrage as lawmakers cried “shame.”
“It is a wake-up call for all of us unless we put our house in order,” said Arun Jaitley, a leader of the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
“The people of this country are becoming restless,” continued Jaitley.
The squat and slight 74-year-old Hazare fasted as thousands of his followers gathered outside the jail, the latest development in a crisis that saw him arrested Tuesday. He then refused to leave jail after the government ordered his release.
Hazare, who has struck a nerve with millions of Indians by demanding tougher laws against rampant corruption, had insisted he wants the right to return to a city park where he had originally planned to publicly fast, before he leaves jail.
The arrest and sudden about-turn to release him appeared to confirm a widespread feeling that Singh’s government is too riddled with scandal to govern Asia’s third-largest economy.