India's Anna Hazare begins new anti-corruption fast

India's anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare gestures as he speaks during his daylong hunger strike at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, India, Sunday, March 25, 2012
Image caption Anna Hazare has been campaigning for a strong anti-corruption bill

Indian anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare has begun a fresh hunger strike to renew his demands for parliament to pass tough anti-corruption laws.

Mr Hazare has long demanded an independent ombudsman to prosecute politicians and civil servants suspected of corruption.

His 12-day fast led to the idea being introduced in parliament in 2011.

The lower house passed the Lokpal bill but the upper house adjourned amid chaos without approving the law.

Mr Hazare, 76, began his latest, "indefinite" hunger strike at his village of Ralegan Siddhi in the western state of Maharashtra on Tuesday morning.

Nearly 5,000 people, mostly locals, gathered around Mr Hazare as he began his fast, a local journalist told BBC Hindi.

Mr Hazare told reporters ahead of the fast that the governing Congress party had "betrayed" him as it had failed to get the bill passed in the parliament.

"When I withdrew my agitation in Delhi I was given a letter by the Congress saying this bill will be passed but it has not happened yet. I am left with no choice but to sit on a hunger strike," he said.

Earlier this week, Arvind Kejriwal, a top aide of Mr Hazare in the anti-corruption campaign, led his year-old Aam Aadmi Party to a surprise strong showing in the Delhi state elections, winning 28 of the 70 seats.

Last year, the two campaigners parted ways over Mr Kejriwal's plans to enter politics, with Mr Hazare saying he preferred "sacred" agitation over politics, "which is full of dirt".

Both are demanding the appointment of an independent anti-corruption ombudsman.

In recent years, India has been hit by a string of high-profile corruption scandals including a telecoms bribery scam that may have cost the government $39bn (£23bn), alleged financial malpractice in connection with the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games and allegations that homes for war widows were diverted to civil servants.

Critics of the government say the scandals point to a pervasive culture of corruption in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's administration.

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