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What’s Up With Team Anna: The Recent Developments in the Anti-Corruption Movement

Posted on October 31, 2011 in Politics, YKA Editorials

By Rigya Singh:

Surprisingly (or not), Anna Hazare is in news yet again. This is the man who has effectively stirred a whole nation’s silent voices to finally speak against the menace of corruption. However, recently, ‘Team Anna’, a name given to the league of people who are under Anna’s tutelage, has been bombarded one after the other with allegations.

Mr. Hazare’s ‘vow of silence’ that the IAC (India Against Corruption) crusader had undertaken came under attacks from the Congress leader Digvijay Singh, claiming that it was an excuse not to comment on the allegations being heaped against IAC activists. Digvijay Singh also stated that Anna Hazare has links with the RSS and that he has a letter to prove it. He tweeted why Anna was not forthcoming about these links whereas Baba Ramdev was forthcoming about them. His late reaction to Prashant Bhushan’s support of a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir (which will give power to the people of Kashmir to decide over the Kashmir issue with Pakistan) has been criticised by Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. There was speculation about the position of the younger Bhushan but it has now been clarified that he will stay in the core team. Arvind Kejriwal has clarified that Team Anna is against a plebiscite in Kashmir.

A week back, two of the team’s key members Rajinder Singh (a Magsaysay Awardee and a water expert) and P V Rajagopal (a prominent activist from Kerala) quit because of ‘undemocratic’ ways of the committee. They were against the political tendency the team was showing against Congress ahead of the by-elections in Hissar. Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal addressed big rallies in Hissar, motivating the people to go against the Congress candidate. The other two candidates were Kuldeep Bishnoi (Haryana Janhit Congress supported by BJP) and Ajay Chautala (INLD), both of whom have previously been accused of laundering money.

Mr. Singh said that “The group is undemocratic. The campaign had given the nation a big dream, but it has now chosen to go after petty victories. They should not have played politics in Hissar when the deadline given to the government was the winter session of Parliament.” He also said that this recent political turn the movement had taken left a bitter taste in the mouths of many members and that the decision to rally against Congress was not a unanimous one. He added that “The whole nation supported it. No movement after Independence has got so much support as this did. So when they had told the government that they would wait for the winter session (of Parliament) before they continue their protests, what was the hurry to get politically involved in Hissar?” (Quoted from Business Standard)

Moreover, Kiran Bedi, the first woman IPS officer of India, has been accused of presenting inflated air travel bills to the companies and institutions that had invited her to speak. She would fly economy and present the bill for business class. While she has not denied such charges, she has claimed that the money went to her NGO, India Vision Foundation, which helps in education and not for the benefit of her family. Mr. Hazare has fired back against these allegations and says that it’s the work of the ‘gang of four’ who have launched a ‘smear campaign’ against the anti-corruption activists. On his blog he wrote, “time and again (Bedi) made it clear that if she has used the money for the benefit of her family then the government should take help of one of its inquiry agencies and if found guilty should take stringent actions against her. But the government doesn’t seem forthcoming in taking such a step. To accuse and humiliate seems to be the mantra of the few. This is not the first time that such accusations have been leveled against Kiran Bedi. Every member of `Team Anna’ had to face accusations and character assassination by the ‘gang of four’. Who are these people? Those are the very same people who are not in favor of Janlokpal Bill.”

Some organisers such as Novartis have come up to the defence of Ms. Bedi and say that she is entitled to the money and it is her wish how she plans on using it. Altogether, it is not an earth shattering controversy but what makes it defaming is that Ms. Bedi is a strong advocator of anti-corruption, has shown severe inflexibility and Team Anna as a whole has shown no mercy and has been quick in passing judgements.

Arvind Kejriwal was not left unscathed. First a young boy hurled a slipper at him and now he is being accused of detouring around 80 lakhs collected during Mr. Hazare’s fast at Ramlila ground to his own NGO. His counter argument was “If someone paid the ticket examiner in Railway because he needed a ticket, so that person cannot question Suresh Kalmadi? Is this the message being given out? Do you mean to say that out of 120 crore people, only saints can question UPA’s corruption and government will keep on robbing people? If anybody questions then that person will be asked to look into his case first.” (IBN Live) He has openly asked the Government to order a probe and punish him severely if found guilty.

Some people are calling this a ploy by the Government. Mr. Hazare met with Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan. Team Anna has decided to draft a constitution for the movement and revamp the core team after that. Whether giving a new face to the team will help, only time can tell. At present, for the umpteenth time it is the common man who is befuddled by role-playing by the Government and Team Anna. Such allegations make the ombudsman question the integrity of the whole situation. We, as educated citizens, have to open up our minds and assess every point of view. We cannot act like blind followers.