Professor HM Desarda, an expert on rural affairs, and GR Khairnar, former Mumbai municipal commissioner, both of whom have worked with Anna Hazare, said the issue of corruption raised by the social activist was important, but his associates were taking him for a ride.
“Hazare should have invited others such as Aruna Roy and taken them into confidence and ensured a dialogue instead of resorting to fast for demands that would undermine supremacy of the Parliament,” Desarda, a former member of the Maharashtra planning board and Hazare's associate for two decades, said on Tuesday.
Based in Aurangabad in central Maharashtra, Desarda said Hazare had some drawbacks, which others exploited at times.
“He always has a coterie around him and gets influenced. It could become a problem, as there could be people with vested interests in this coterie,” he said.
In fact, this is the reason many respected personalities who used to work with Hazare distanced themselves from him.
He said Hazare's knowledge of the Constitution and law was limited and he relied on people around him. “Even now, he is under the influence of people like Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi. In fact, he should have taken others (like Aruna Roy) into confidence in larger public interest instead of monopolising the movement,” he opined.
He termed Hazare's fast unwarranted and unwise.
“Hazare has become a pawn in the hands of Bedi and Kejriwal. In addition, communal forces have jumped into the agitation,” Desarda said. But he criticised the government for arresting Hazare.
Khairnar, who had launched a campaign against corruption and criminalisation of politics in the early 90s, said he chose not to be associated with Hazare because he found him inconsistent.
“What put me off in 1995 was his inconsistent approach towards the issue. He had once told me not to speak against Sharad Pawar. Later, he met (Shiv Sena chief Bal) Thackeray and commented the latter could eliminate corruption,” Khairnar said. Khairnar had targeted Pawar, then chief minister, and launched a campaign with Hazare, which damaged the Congress' image. Riding on the wave, the Sena-BJP combine found it easier to win power in Maharashtra in the 1995 assembly elections.
“His associates are exploiting his popularity and misleading the whole movement. Anna is a simple man and has hardly travelled outside his village to understand the nitty-gritty of the whole issue,” said Khairnar.
“The government's draft may be weak but even Anna's proposals have provisions which run contrary to the Constitution of India,” he added.