NEW DELHI — The Indian government scrambled for a response on Friday as a hunger-strike protest over corruption by a 73-year-old Gandhi devotee entered its fourth day with growing public support.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held crisis talks with ministers and briefed President Pratibha Patil on the standoff, which has caught the nation’s attention at a time of rising public anger over graft.
Hazare’s main demand is that members of civil society should sit on a committee drafting the Lokpal (Ombudsman) Bill which would give teeth to existing anti-corruption laws enabling the prosecution of public officials.
The government has offered to give 50 percent of seats on the committee to civil society members, but the two sides are still wrangling over other details and a defiant Hazare appears in no mood to compromise.
“I have limited energy. I have no money, no big house and no gold, but I have support from the people and I see God’s will in it,” Hazare, who is being monitored by doctors, told supporters.
A Facebook campaign backing him has garnered 150,000 members, while a separate petition from campaign group Avaaz drew more than 100,000 signatures in 15 hours.
Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan has written a letter to the former army driver, identifying himself with “the thousands who are fully supportive of your efforts,” local media reported.
In the meantime, helped by blanket coverage in the national media and a highly organised publicity team, the campaign is developing into a broader movement against corruption.