A whisper campaign of sorts began soon after members of Team Anna called off their agitation at Jantar Mantar declaring that they would take the political plunge on August 3. It was run by a bunch of former India Against Corruption (IAC) volunteers who believed that the movement should remain apolitical. Let us call them pro- movement volunteers for rest of the article. They raised some uncomfortable but pertinent points about the fundamentals of the IAC’s anti- graft movement. They propounded the theory that Anna Hazare was never in favour of launching a political party; he was satisfied with the trajectory of the Jan Lokpal movement and wanted it to continue; he was optimistic that the government would budge and pass the Jan Lokpal bill.
To believe in this theory was to assume that what Anna said on August 3, “fast was a waste of time and the nation wanted a political alternative”, were not Anna’s own words. This line of thought also implied that Anna and Kejriwal were on different pages about converting movement into a political party.
Following is a time-line which chalks out how Anna Hazare and protege Arvind Kejriwal, might have went their own ways:
August 11: Arvind Kejriwal rubbished the talks of differences between him and Anna Hazare calling it a ‘malicious campaign’ ran by a propaganda machinery working overtime. He posted eight consecutive tweets explaining that to start a political party was Anna’s decision and the septuagenarian was not someone who can be persuaded to do something against his will. “For last one year, Anna being projected as a simpleton, an infant who cud be influenced by anyone. Those projecting Anna as a gullible man may try getting Anna to say a single line against his wishes. If he says even once that he doesn’t want us to do that, we will immediately withdraw. Anna clearly directed us to start forming pol (sic) party,” said he. The Anna- Kejriwal split theory appeared buried.
August 27: It was on this day that the split theory seemed to have re-appeared with Kiran Bedi speaking of ‘two routes’ to fight corruption. The day before, Bedi, founder member of IAC, had refused to participate in the Delhi agitation planned by Kejriwal and his aides, where they attempted to gherao the residences of the prime minister and Sonia Gandhi.
Bedi said that after ending his fast, Anna left political as well as apolitical options open for his supporters. This was contradictory to one of Kejriwal’s August 11 tweets which read, “Anna heeded to public demand n is convinced that there is no road left other than providing pol (sic) alternative.”
Kejriwal reached out to Bedi and tried explaining to her why it was essential to enter the system to clean it. Essentially, it was an exercise to win back Justice (former) Santosh Hegde, Medha Patkar and Akhil Gogoi and many others who supported IAC but were not excited about its political prospects. Like them, Bedi stuck to her point.
By then, pro- movement voices had gathered momentum. More than 100 IAC former volunteers had formed a group and started holding meetings in the national capital and NCR. They argued that the call for political alternative given from Jantar Mantar was not sacrosanct and they could work around it. They wanted to explore the possibility of having Anna on board the non- political movement. They raised doubts on the definition and scale of “jantaa” which wanted the anti- graft movement to turn political. It was no more a whisper campaign but an attempt to consolidate pro- movement activists.
September 8: Against this backdrop, Kejriwal met Anna in Ralegan Siddhi. After the meeting, Kejriwal said that through a survey, he would seek people’s response on whether they wanted IAC to launch a political party or not. The IAC ended the latest Jantar Mantar agitation and decided to form a political party, reportedly, based on the ‘survey’ results.
September 13:Around 10 pro- movement volunteers visited Anna. In a video message recorded after this meeting, Anna said politics will not bring the change that an apolitical movement can and at a larger level people were not in favour of contesting elections or forming a party.
This was the first time Anna gave more than his standard response on his political inclinations (that he will not contest elections and will not form a political party). Though he said nothing which indicated rivalry or rift or split with Kejriwal’s group, it was the first clear sign of him distancing himself from the soon-to-be launched political party.
September 14 & 15: In the next two days, he reiterated his stand twice – first through a blog- post and at then at the annual meeting of Brashtachar Virodhi Jan Andolan, his organisation in Pune. He also provided the contact details of his Ralegan Siddhi office for those who wanted to carry forward the non-political movement. That was the second pronounced sign that Kejriwal was no more acting in collusion with Anna.
Before Anna’s scheduled arrival in Delhi on September 18, the IAC released the result of the survey Kejriwal had initially talked about, declaring that 76 per cent respondents were in favour of political party.
September 18: When Anna arrived in Delhi, his first meeting was not with Kejriwal but with the group which was for movement and not politics. There, he declared that launching a political party was not his way of doing things and let ‘them’ (Kejriwal and his group) contest elections. He also said that he would campaign for a candidate of IAC’s political party only if he personally believed in his credentials. It was a clear sign of the widening gap between the two groups and Anna drifting towards the pro-movement campaign.
September 19: The following day, Anna met leaders from both the groups. In a more than eight-hour-long deliberation at the Constitution Club, each group defended its stand. It is learnt that during the closed-door meet, Anna stuck to the point that he would not fight elections and would not support any candidate. He also questioned the usage of social media for the survey done by IAC and said that to know the country’s real opinion, IAC members should have toured all the villages across India. He hinted that he would continue extending outside support to both, the movement and the political party.
But while talking to press after the meeting, he said that Kejriwal’s group should go ahead on its own and should not use his name and picture.
“Feel Anna was being expected to support political option when he was never inclined. Was it a case of misjudgment on the part of some?” tweeted Bedi after this meeting.
“Anna has been fighting corrupt for last 30 yrs. He is extremely sharp politically n (sic) fiercely independent,” said Kejriwal in a tweet on August 11.
While the intricate details of the fall-out between Anna and Kejriwal will remain buried, given that the split didn’t turn into the kind of political circus we’re mostly familiar with, the Anna-Kejriwal story seems to have spun out in the ideal versus ambitions direction, that critics had predicted long ago.