NEW DELHI: After Anna Hazare's refusal to walk out, Tihar jail authorities allotted him a room to spend night in the jail, TV channels reported. Anna is continuing his fast in the jail.

The government on Tuesday was at sixes and sevens over Anna Hazare's steely determination to carry on with his indefinite fast despite his unexpected arrest and his equally sudden release in the face of mounting countrywide protests. Anna scornfully rejected his release, saying he would leave Tihar Jail only if the government unconditionally allowed his protest for a stronger Lokpal Bill. In any case, he said, he was fasting in Tihar.

The government's desperate attempt to cut its losses-releasing Anna within 12 hours of his arrest and seven-day judicial remand-failed badly as it was outwitted by the Gandhian and his growing band of supporters, who appeared to be thinking three steps ahead of government managers. Not only was it seen to be eating humble pie after Anna's arrest, it was nowhere close to easing its discomfiture.

Anna's tough stance has put the government in a bind. It can let Hazare stay in Tihar but only at the cost of growing popular resentment: the very same consideration that led to a rethink on his imprisonment. On the other hand, permission to let Hazare launch his fast at J P Park will show up the initial refusal of the site as arbitrary and unreasonable.

The high-risk gamble to check Anna by arresting him appeared to be an ill-thought move. While the government possibly thought that an indefinite fast would lead to a huge problem for it in the days ahead and reckoned action right now would scatter the movement after initial protests, it had not foreseen the extent of support for Anna or the intensity of the anger against it.

In the city, there were spontaneous demonstrations and candlelight protests. A strike of auto-rickshaws has been called in Delhi on Wednesday as a mark of support for Hazare: a sure sign that his camp has now spread beyond the middle class. And everywhere, supporters waved the national flag, lending the movement a rare patriotic fervour.

The spontaneous display of solidarity encouraged those in the Congress with misgivings over government's handling of the Hazare challenge, with sources disclosing that Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi was among those who counselled against a confrontation with the anti-graft agitators banded behind Hazare. There were reports that Rahul had a meeting with the PM in the evening. Earlier, he had held a meeting with senior leaders Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram and Kamal Nath.

Celebrations broke out across the city as news of Hazare's imminent release spread, with crowds raising victory slogans and candles twinkling on a cool evening after a rainy day.

While maintaining that the decision to arrest Hazare was that of Delhi Police (a line that few bought), home minister P Chidambaram had strongly justified the arrest saying that the anti-graft campaigner had committed a cognizable offence by refusing to obey prohibitory orders. The legalistic reasoning failed to impress most people, who saw his arrest as an unacceptable attempt to muzzle democratic protest.

Although both government and Congress kept their distance from Hazare's release, saying it was the decision of Delhi Police, the reversal of course was seen as simultaneously signalling confused thinking in the government as well as its diminishing options in the confrontation with the anti-corruption upsurge. Delhi Police, which works directly under the Union home ministry, has never before displayed the degree of autonomy government vested it with on Tuesday.

On Sunday, Hazare had said that despite being Gandhian, he was not averse to emulating Chhatrapati Shivaji, who exhausted his opponents by harrying them with his guerrilla tactics. His refusal to be released till his conditions were met showed that the veteran campaigner had indeed borrowed tricks from the Maratha warrior king

After the morning crackdown, the remarkable turnaround came late on Tuesday evening as Delhi Police officials confirmed that Hazare and his associates were to be set free. Some 1,500 persons detained through the day were also let off. After having sought to nip the protest in the bud in order to prevent a repeat of the April surrender to the Gandhian, UPA appears to have compounded its woes.

The flip-flop over tackling the Hazare campaign firmly has only eroded the authority of a government buffeted and battered by corruption scandals since mid-2010. It has opened itself to further uncertainty as Team Anna may scent victory and renew its plans for a fast at a public venue. It will also seek the cover of the courts that it will approach on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, senior ministers P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal were at pains to argue that the government was as keen as Anna to combat corruption but could not agree with his methods. But the legalistic argument about Hazare defying prohibitory orders fell short of a political answer to his demands.

The current situation is even more precarious for the government than in April where a four-day fast brought the government to its knees. In Parliament, BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley said the government was snatching the right to protest while the Congress's political leadership was hiding behind the uniformed force. The CPM said the government had attacked the democratic right to peaceful protest.
- source : times of india