India activist says supporters override Parliament

AP News
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Posted: Aug 21, 2011 6:29 AM
India activist says supporters override Parliament

An activist on a hunger strike to demand that Indian lawmakers pass his anti-corruption bill said 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 Aug. 30 creating an anti-corruption watchdog with authority over the judiciary and prime minister's office.

Hazare's campaign has received nonstop media attention and widespread support among both wealthy and poor Indians fed up with rampant bribery and favoritism. 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 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 cellphone 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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