MUMBAI: Indian anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare called off his latest hunger strike on Wednesday but signalled he would step up his political efforts to turn voters against the ruling party and government.
Hazare began his fast on Tuesday to demand that the government pass a strong new anti-graft law that would create a powerful ombudsman tasked with identifying and prosecuting corrupt public officials.
“Today I will break the fast,” the frail 74-year-old told supporters in Mumbai. “We will discuss the future strategy to launch our fight against corruption.” Doctors had urged the former army driver to call off his hunger strike because of low blood pressure and dehydration.
Hazare and his supporters maintain that a draft law passed by the lower house of parliament late on Tuesday is weak and ineffectual as it shields the country’s federal police from scrutiny.
He had previously threatened to begin a campaign of civil disobedience immediately after his fast if his demands were not met.
He said his supporters should be ready to defy the police and court arrest, but he declined to give details.
“We have to save this country. Every one of you should be ready to go to the jail. The day the jails are full of people, government will have to give in,” he said.
Hazare shot to national fame in August after holding a 12-day fast in the capital New Delhi, which galvanised millions across the country disaffected with endemic corruption in everyday life.
Crowds have been thin on the ground for his second national campaign, however, with no more than several thousand in Mumbai for the second day of his protest, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.
In a sign of his increasingly bitter battle with the ruling Congress party and the administration of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he said he would tour five states holding elections next year to educate voters about corruption.
“We will tour all the five states and ask people not to vote for the traitors of this country,” he said.
He will also hold another protest in New Delhi on December 30 and the first two days of January, he said.