New Delhi, Nov 4 - Anna Hazare Friday broke his 19-day vow of silence and threatened to campaign against the UPA in the assembly polls to five states next year if a strong Lokpal bill is not passed in the winter session of parliament. Team Anna also held a long discussion with the parliamentary panel on the ombudsman bill.
Chairman of the Standing Committee on Law and Justice Abhishek Manu Singhvi said in the evening that the panel held serious discussion with Team Anna and covered all issues.
'We hope to move forward on the legislation. Internal meetings of the committee would begin now,' said Singhvi. Team Anna had met the panel on Thursday too.
Singhvi also described the comments made by Team Anna on the proposed bill Friday morning as uncalled for and urged them to refrain from making such comments.
Earlier, Hazare broke his 'maun vrat' at Mahatma Gandhi's memorial Rajghat here and demanded that a strong Lokpal bill be passed in the winter session or he would campaign against the United Progressive Alliance government in the five poll-bound states.
'The government's intentions about a strong Lokpal bill are not clear. If they will not pass the Jan Lokpal bill in the winter session, then I along with other members - will campaign against the government,' Hazare told reporters after breaking his silence.
The five states going to polls next year are Uttarakhand, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Manipur.
Hazare, who had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently threatening to launch another hunger strike if the Lokpal bill was not passed in the Nov 22-Dec 21 winter session, said his fight against corruption would go on.
After the winter session, the activist said he would travel across the country campaigning for the Jan Lokpal Bill, Team Anna's version of the ombudsman legislation.
'During the assembly elections in five states, we will hold sit-in protests in each and campaign against the Congress. We will categorically ask people not to vote for the party that is not serious about a strong anti-corruption law.'
Asked if he would support the Bharatiya Janata Party - during the assembly elections, he said: 'There is no difference between the Congress and the BJP. One is a graduate, the other postgraduate.'
Hazare accused the government of trying to weaken the bill by bringing separate bills for a citizens' charter and to protect whistleblowers.
He appealed to the government to follow the model of the Uttarakhand Lokayukta. Later, Hazare also met the state Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri.
After breaking his 'maun vrat' Friday morning, Hazare said he had observed the vow of silence to 'regain power to fight for a strong Lokpal bill and against corruption'.
'The vow of silence was not against any individual or any political party, but to regain energy. After the 12-day fast in Ramlila Maidan, my body became weak. I lost 7 kg of weight so I had to observe maun vrat. Now after the vow of silence my body is back to normal, I regained the power to fight for Jan Lokpal bill and against corruption,' Hazare said.
Reacting to Hazare's threat, Congress said the government could not be 'threatened and blackmailed'.
'Beyond that we really cannot go on giving in to such pressures. It is neither dignified nor nice,' Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury told a news channel.
The BJP condemned Chowdhury's statement.
BJP leader Balbir Punj said any section of society has the right to raise its demand and it cannot be termed as blackmail.
'The Congress and the UPA cannot decide how to deal with Anna and his agitation. They are changing their stance from time to time. They have been totally dishonest in dealing either with Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare,' Punj said.