-The Indian Express
When Team Anna members Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia announced Friday the decision of their anti-corruption movement to launch a political party, they said it was based on the “strength of the people of India”. But the decision seemed to have shaken the the strength of their own organisation, with prominent members as well as ordinary supporters openly criticising the switch and even distancing themselves from it.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, one of the founder-members of India Against Corruption (IAC), and retired Justice Santosh Hegde, among its most credible faces, made it clear that association with a political outfit was hardly an option for them. Some of Anna’s oldest associates from Maharashtra said “losing deposit” was the only possible outcome of fighting elections and members of his NGO in Maharashtra were not in favour of it.
Justice Santosh Hegde said he had made his opposition to a political alternative very clear and should IAC be converted into a political party, it would be difficult for him to continue his association with it. “However, if Anna has said that he is not launching a political party, then I am hopeful there will also be an option of continuing the anti-corruption movement from an apolitical platform. Otherwise, it will be difficult for me and some others like me who do not want to be branded as political, to continue with it,” he told The Indian Express.
While Ravi Shankar tweeted “I will always remain apolitical and fight social causes”, sources in his Art of Living said that there is displeasure about the decision being taken without consultation in the core committee where the Art of Living is represented. Moreover, they said the tweet also implies that should the movement turn political, the Art of Living representative will be withdrawn.
Reports about Team Anna’s political ambitions have made the rounds for some months now and core committee members concede that there were many occasions when the matter came up in meetings only to be opposed by a majority.
With the group now formally deciding to form a political party, a letter sent from the e-mail id of one core committee member being circulated since Thursday questions the decision making process and likens it to the “Congress high command”.
In Maharashtra, which is the only state where there is a strong organisation thanks to Hazare’s NGO Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Andolan Nyas, there is extreme scepticism about the political option. “We at BVJAN are opposed to this idea of a political party, they will lose their deposits. Even if Anna himself contests it would be difficult, I know because I live in his constituency Ahmednagar (South),” said Ashok Sabban, vice president and trustee of the NGO.
“The only thing that is possible is to support candidates - like last time we ensured victory for the BJP candidate because Anna wanted us to. This is hardly a good time to enter politics, in 2000, when our stocks were high, we had urged him then and he had refused. It is not a good time now. In 340 talukas of Maharashtra we have an organisation but what about the other states? Our best bet would be to get the 50 per cent who do not vote out of their homes but how?” asked Sabban.
Even volunteers such as Dr Sanjeev Chibber, a surgical oncologist who had been a constant presence in the IAC medical team, sounded disillusioned. “I was associated with them since December 2010 and that association ended last night because that is when I realised this whole agitation was an attempt by some people to launch themselves into politics,” said Chibber.
”Had they made these intentions clear from the very beginning, I would have appreciated that. But why go through this charade of Janlokpal...the bill that Parliament had passed is a good one, anything else would be inimical to democratic interests. But they continued to play on the emotions of people like it is a wet towel that needs to be wrung time and again. Donations taken from people were used to pay salaries to volunteers,” he said.