Hazare hints at possible entry into Indian politics

Activist to end hunger strike

Indian anti-graft activist Anna Hazare was set to end his "indefinite" hunger strike Friday after six days, having failed to garner the mass support that spurred his anti-corruption drive a year ago.

Hazare, 75, announced his intention to end his fast when he addressed supporters Thursday at the protest venue in central New Delhi, where he begun refusing food last Sunday.

His remarks also hinted at a possible entry into politics with an eye on India's 2014 general elections.

"It is another two years to go to the polls. We have to go to people throughout the country in the next one-and-half years. Why waste time on fasts?" Hazare said.

The veteran activist's latest protest -- which he had threatened to pursue "until death" -- had sought to pressurise the government into strengthening a new anti-corruption bill currently pending a parliamentary committee hearing.

His campaign had also demanded a special probe into possible graft allegations against 15 ministers, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Hazare became an unlikely national hero last August when he led countrywide protests that tapped into a rich seam of public anger at India's endemic corruption and caught Singh's graft-tainted coalition government unawares.

During a 12-day hunger strike, he was feted as a latter-day Mahatma Gandhi and mobbed at a triumphal procession through the capital New Delhi.

This time however, crowds have been far smaller and it quickly became clear that the campaign had lost much of its momentum since the heady days of last summer.

The media has also been less supportive, suggesting that Hazare overstepped the mark in insisting that parliament adopts his campaign's input for the new anti-corruption bill.

"We want a political alternative," Hazare said Thursday. "People should decide who should be given tickets and how to achieve that alternative system."

Campaign spokeswoman Aswathi Murlidharan said Friday that no decision had yet been taken on what political avenues would be explored.

"It is not a political party that we are looking at right now," she told AFP.

Hazare was due to end his fast at 5:00 pm (1130 GMT) Friday.



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