The rift in Team Anna is wide open. In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, Justice Santosh Hegde, former Lokayukta of Karnatka and a core member of Team Anna made it clear that he was out of Anna and that he was certainly not going to be a part of the team that has decided to go political.
"What is their ground reach to the voters. May be in Delhi and the outskirts of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan, but thats not India," he said.
"I was with them in the fight against corruption and I will not be involved in their plans to form a political party and fight elections. Team Anna doesn't have the wherewithal to fight and finance an all-India election and get a majority," the former Karnataka Lokayukta told this paper. Questioning the credentials of his former colleagues, Hegde said, "Arvind may have spent a few years in the revenue service and similarly, Kiran Bedi has some administrative experience as a police officer but that is not enough."
He revealed that the plans to form a political party were discussed at a core committee meeting in Delhi a few months ago. Hegde was present in the meeting and expressed his reservations. A month later, he says, "Arvind Kejriwal flew to Bangalore and had a one on one meeting with me at my residence and tried to convince me that going political was the only way out since the government was not willing to respond to the public mood clearly being in favour of a strong Lokpal."
Hegde, however, affirmed, in his interview to this paper that he told Kejriwal that "while his reasoning was good, it was impractical.'' Till recently, a part of the core committee of Team Anna, which was dissolved by the Ralegan Sidhi-based crusader, Hegde, said, "Politics is a profession. It is not just public service. How are they going to guard against undesirable people joining you, only because you need 500 plus candidates."
In the course of the interview, Hegde also revealed the possible reasons why the team arrived at the decision of going political. He said, "Prashant Bhushan telephoned me and tried to convince me, telling me that they had taken the advice of psephologists who had told him that there was a groundswell of support for them and that the people want a change from the existing political system.'' But says, the former Lokayukta, "Bhushan is a good lawyer but he doesn't have any experience in political administration."
In a no-holds-barred interview, Hegde, went to the extent of saying, "Can they take on a party like the Congress which is 100 years old and regional forces that are entrenched in states? What has been built over 62 years cannot be changed in 62 months."
Hegde said that Team Anna has not even reached out to more than a fraction of India and that "Anna should travel across the country because there is support for him." The former Lokayukta, expressed the view that the team should have built an atmosphere through an all-India tour, built a movement and then taken a decision of going political. "Political parties are not viewed favourably in our country. They supported us because we launched a crusade against corruption but now they might ask - how will you be different from the other parties."
Quoting his own example, Hegde said, "As the lokayukta, i fought corruption through an institution, with infrastructure, men and material but I've not been able to reduce it. Yes, I may have been able to create an atmosphere against corruption."
To the question of whether Anna appeared to be distancing himself from his team on the issue of forming a political party, Hegde said, "I can only deduce from his blog that that may be the case because he asked some hard questions on where the candidates and the money would come from."
To the question of Anna and Baba Ramdev joining hands, so as not to divide civil society, Hegde said, "They have shared a stage but the lines don't meet. Ramdev's focus is on black money. On whether Team Anna members lacked immaturity for the manner in which they first criticised Ramdev for sharing a stage with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and then backtraced to say it was his individual choice, Hegde said, "You could call it immaturity. They don't have experience in politics."