Having run an anti-corruption agitation with political overtones for 16 months, social activist Anna Hazare and his colleagues took the plunge on Friday, announcing they would launch a political party to contest the 2014 general elections.
Team Anna breaks fast, to form political party
The announcement — a day after Team Anna stated it would seek the people’s opinion on whether it should launch its own party — also marked the end of an indefinite fast by Hazare and his colleagues at Jantar Mantar, in the presence of former army chief General VK Singh.
It created confusion for some members of Team Anna and India Against Corruption. Finally, it was Arvind Kejriwal who ended the ambiguity: “We have to throw this government out. It is a long fight… Parliament has to be purified. There will be no high command and people will decide the candidates and fund them.”
Anna Hazare gestures during a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.(AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
He said the aim was not to capture power and appealed to those feeling suffocated in the Congress and BJP, particularly the youth leaders, to join them.
Hazare, on his part, said he would guide his team. “I will tour the country, but I will not contest elections myself or join any party.”
The general refrain from major parties was that in a democracy, all were free to enter the political arena.
But they were skeptical about such a rookie party's future at the electoral hustings.
Though it is too early to make a prediction on what impact Team Anna's proposed party may have in 2014, given the recent support it got in urban centres, some political analysts are of the view that it might harm the BJP more than the Congress. The BJP's lack of enthusiasm over the latest fast also appeared to be an indicator of such an eventuality.
Its response was guarded. "If somebody wants to join the political mainstream and fight corruption, we welcome it," said general secretary Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The Congress - which has largely been at the receiving end of Team Anna's attacks - hit back, calling the announcement a face-saver to deflect attention from a failed fast. "Obviously, when you paint yourself in a corner, you require a face-saver… The desire to form a party is also their own," said party spokesperson Manish Tewari.