Is Anna 2.0 on the way?
Social activist Anna Hazare’s home town Ralegan Siddhi is abuzz with talk of a move to set up a nationwide network of selfless and — most important — non-political volunteers.
After the July agitation in New Delhi ended in a whimper, Hazare disbanded his 22-member core team that had planned and executed the jan lokpal movement during the past one year.
Hazare has reportedly set out to go decidedly apolitical and appealed for volunteers to raise a new brigade that would be monitored only by him — independent of the movement that has now embraced a political agenda.
“Our new team will take ahead Annaji’s andolan (agitation) by forming teams in their respective places. People who have political interest will have to explore other options,” said Hazare’s close aide Suresh Pathare from Ralegan Siddhi.
Although some former members of the core team, led by Arvind Kejriwal, plan to float a political outfit on October 2, some other senior activists, such as Kiran Bedi and Santosh Hegde, reportedly developed differences with Kejriwal.
Asked about his views on Hazare’s new move, Kejriwal refused to either deny or confirm the information. He said, “The reality will be known to the world soon.”
Hazare, now at a hospital on the outskirts of Bangalore, however, told HT: “I won’t speak about any political issues or the team.”
But one of the other members of the core team said, requesting anonymity: “That (forming a team of volunteers) does not change anything about the plan to broad-base and take the movement to different levels. The focus remains on fighting corruption — whether it is through cleansing the political system or through agitations.”
Hazare also wants his recruits to have a strong belief in clean character, good thinking and the need to sacrifice for the country.
More than 1,000 people, including former defence and police personnel, bureaucrats, doctors and engineers offered themselves to the Hazare brand of agitations against corruption.
Another close Hazare aide, Dattatray Awari, told HT from Ralegan that Hazare’s office has received applications from almost all states. Prominent among them are Jammu & Kashmir, the NCR region, UP, Haryana, Punjab, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, MP and Maharashtra.
Awari said Hazare had written back to the applicants appreciating their willingness to join him, but asked them to reaffirm their commitment to the cause. “Annaji wants his volunteers to strengthen their resolve before taking the plunge.”
Hazare is scheduled to return to Ralegan from Bangalore by September 8 and will personally supervise the selection process during the next couple of months.