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Team Anna: The way forward

Support for Hazare and his colleagues appears to be ebbing after a series of controversies. His team members say that their movement has already deepened Indian democracy. Neyaz Farooquee & Shreya Sethuraman report. The Anna in every Indian| Interview with Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan | HT C-fore survey

delhi Updated: Nov 06, 2011 01:42 IST

To some people, Anna Hazare's threat two days ago, after he broke his vow of silence, reveals why his movement is losing its way. Hazare said on Friday that he would campaign against the ruling coalition in five state elections if the government did not pass the Jan Lokpal Bill in Parliament's winter session.

Nearly three-fourths of those interviewed in a survey conducted last week said their enthusiasm for Hazare's movement had ebbed since the Ramlila protests (see on the right). Many factors seem to be working together.

The first is the repeated use of threats. "It is unnecessary to keep repeating the demand when the government is working towards it," says nonagenarian Shambhu Dutt Sharma, the initiator of the Lokpal bill campaign in 1998. "They [the government] can't afford to alienate the entire country. So let's trust them for now."

Sharma, 94, a freedom fighter, heads the Gandhi Satyagraha Brigade, which, besides campaigning for the Lokpal Bill, advocates attaching the illegal property of those found to be corrupt.

Gurpreet Singh, 23, an MBA student, however, argues that Hazare has no option. "He has to use this threat in order to get the government to do something."

The second problem is Hazare's involvement in electoral politics. Last month, his team members campaigned against the Congress candidate Jai Parkash in the Hissar by-election, all the while denying their motives were political. Almost two-thirds of the survey's respondents said his team should fight elections instead of getting involved from the sidelines.

"The movement has become undemocratic; their motive has become entirely political," says Anil Pandit, 54, a social activist who participated in the Ramlila protests.

Anna supporters respond that the Hissar campaign was necessary. "Politicians are involved on the other side. One has to be part of the setup to force change," says Rudra Rai, 26, a security advisor at Google. Says Arvind Gaur, a theatre artist and core Team Anna member: "It's just an awareness campaign. We are not pro-BJP or anti-Congress."

Then there are corruption charges against his core team members. Charges have emerged against Kiran Bedi that she had inflated travel bills she had submitted to several organisations, and Kejriwal, Anna's closest aide, was issued an income tax notice for violating the terms of duty of the Indian Revenue Service, where he was employed until 2006. He paid a fine of Rs 9 lakh last week, stating in a letter to the prime minister that he didn't even know what crime he had committed. "Just because I am paying the fine it doesn't mean that I am accepting the guilt," he said.

Although the survey suggests that many believe the charges have come from the government's department of dirty tricks, the accusations have nevertheless complicated matters.

"If Kejriwal is proven guilty, then he must quit the movement," says Aanchal Sanwaria, 30, a supporter.

First Published: Nov 05, 2011 20:43 IST