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Yatri No 1: Anna Hazare

delhi Updated: Sep 18, 2011 00:22 IST
Nagendar Sharma
Nagendar Sharma
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Team Anna believes Hazare's yatra could be their first major step with direct political bearing.


Name : Anna Hazare

(Kisan Baburao Hazare)
Age: 74 years
Date of birth: June 15, 1937

Objective: To mobilise the public in favour of his anti-corruption campaign. Hazare and his team want to spread their movement to different parts of the country, buoyed by the tremendous public support generated during his two fasts in the capital. His team also views the yatra as an opportunity to let the people directly interact with Hazare and broadbase their agenda from anti-corruption to electoral reforms.

Chief aides: RTI activist and Magsaysay award winner Arvind Kejriwal, first woman IPS officer Kiran Bedi, another Magsaysay winner; along with Manish Sisodia, will be the main organisers. Justice Santosh Hegde and lawyer Prashant Bhushan, will be the other key organisers of the yatra.

When and where will the yatra begin?

Team Hazare is planning to begin the train yatra from October, though the dates are yet to be finalised. After his fast at Jantar Mantar in April, Hazare visited some cities of the country —Ahmedabad, Bangalaore, Guwahati and Varanasi — to mobilise support for his Jan Lokpal bill. This time round, though, his team is planning a structured yatra, and the veteran Gandhian has shown preference to travel by train. This is expected to be a long affair, spanning over several months. His team is likely to take a decision within a fortnight about the route and starting point. During his team's core committee

meeting at Hazare's village — Ralegan Siddhi in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra — on September 10-11, the decision taken “in-principle” is to focus on states where assembly polls will be held next year: Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

What are the political implications of the yatra?

Hazare and his team admit the fact that this yatra would be their first major step which would have a direct bearing on politics. The veteran Gandhian has made public his intention to change the system and during his fast in April, he limited himself to ridiculing the politicians and attacking the government. The next step was asking his supporters to protest outside the houses of MPs opposing the Jan Lokpal bill. His recent statements about opposing the Congress and the BJP are a clear indication that Hazare wants to test his support at the ground level.

What could be the potential hazard of undertaking such a yatra?

So far, Hazare has got the support of the educated middle-class, media and some sections of the intelligentsia for his anti-graft plank and the peaceful method of protest, organised by disciplined volunteers. The yatra in poll-bound states is fraught with an imminent danger of a political appeal to the voters, which might split his support-base, which till now has been solidly behind him due to his strong attack on the political class. Even as a key member of his core team, lawyer Prashant Bhushan, says Team Anna is not worried about the electoral outcome anywhere and “the public will teach a lesson to those opposed to the Hazare movement,” it might finally brand their movement with a particular political party.

Hassles that the yatra could encounter

The difficulty Team Anna faced in getting the permission for Hazare's fast at the Ramlila Ground last month is a strong indicator of the long arms of the political class and the law enforcing agencies. Given the media focus and the middle-class support for the social activist, the government could not deny permission for long in Delhi, but in the states, the temperamental nature of some chief ministers and a comparatively lesser media glare could make the going difficult for Hazare and his colleagues.

What are the positives that could emerge from the yatra?

Hazare has successfully turned corruption into a national issue and governments across the country are taking steps to show their determination to tackle graft. The train yatra could further galvanise the masses to put pressure on their respective governments for effective public welfare related policies. Team Anna also hopes to make the public aware about the role of their MPs on the Jan Lokpal bill.

The Congress has accused the BJP and the RSS of supporting Hazare. Will the yatra strengthen this charge?

The yatra could prove to be a double-edged sword. Opposition parties, particularly the BJP, keen to take advantage of the prevailing anti-corruption mood in the country, ask its cadres to join Hazare's yatra, giving credence to the Congress charge. Hazare has a chance to disprove this allegation, in case he attacks the performance of the BJP-ruled states going to polls next year. The Gandhian has already expressed his desire to support clean candidates irrespective of party affiliations.