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India's Anti-Graft Crusader Agrees To Public Fast


Good morning.

AMOL SHARMA: Good to be with you.

MONTAGNE: First a little background. Tell us about Anna Hazare and his - first of all, his decision to stage this hunger strike.

SHARMA: So he wants to include the prime minister under the purview of this agency so that a sitting prime minister could be prosecuted, and also the judiciary. And those are two big sticking points.

MONTAGNE: Why was the government so tough in this case? I mean, why was he arrested?

SHARMA: So that was a very aggressive move by the government, and one that even some officials now are publically saying that they regret.

MONTAGNE: Right. I mean, now he is being compared by some there, I gather, to Gandhi. But did he have a lot of supporters before he was arrested?

SHARMA: You wonder if his hunger strike drags on for days or weeks and, you know, it disrupts traffic and the rallies get out of control, you wonder if he could maintain that support with the general public. But for right now, he does have a lot of sympathy.

MONTAGNE: Although it sounds like he touched a chord in India about corruption.

SHARMA: He did touch a chord. People are outraged. He's tapped into a sense of complete helplessness among the citizenry about the public officials basically being top-to-down corrupt. And that's one thing that you can sense on the streets - I was out at a rally last night in Central Delhi - is people are just completely angry with the way the government has handled this crisis, and with its lack of solutions to - how to tackle corruption. So he has definitely tapped into that.

MONTAGNE: Well, what do you think might happen now with - as regards to the government? I mean, will it go along with his demands? I mean, what's the sense?

SHARMA: It's hard to say. I mean, the only way out of the crisis at this point is for the government and Hazare's team to reach some sort of compromise on this agency and what its powers should be. We'll have to see. I mean, if he - if Hazare can keep up the pressure with a few more days of this hunger fast and keep drawing huge crowds, you imagine that ultimately, the government would have to bend, to some degree. But it's impossible to see what the final compromise would look like right now, they're just so far apart.

MONTAGNE: Thanks very much.

SHARMA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.