At first blush, it appears to be a battle over means toward a common end. Arvind Kejriwal wants to change the system by becoming part of it. Attack the beast from within, so to speak. Anna Hazare disagrees. Politics, he says, “is full of dirt” as opposed to the “sacred” path of agitation.
“Politics is not the right direction. If politics would given us a bright future, then why India once called a golden bird had to mortgage gold. This country will not get the right future from politics,” Hazare insists.
There are sound arguments for both positions, and people of good intentions can disagree. More damaging, however, is the other interpretation of this split as the triumph of ideology, an inevitably splintering over left-right lines. This was a coalition that brought together a Medha Patkar with an Anna Hazare, united Kiran Bedi with a Prashant Bhushan, people who had little common ideological ground other than a commitment to fight corruption.
This rainbow effect was the secret of Team Anna‘s allure. They epitomised the dream of Indians coming together, irrespective of caste, class and politics, to fight for justice as citizens united. The legal chops of the Bhushans combined with the organisational skills of a Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi’s folk-hero appeal, under the umbrella of Anna’s Gandhian integrity. A Tehelka profile of Kejriwal attributed this achievement to his “out-of-the-box thinking”:
Vijay Pratap, a political activist who has known Arvind for a decade, believes it’s with this that Arvind really scores. His success stems from his capacity to have a brilliant strategy without an overarching ideology. What Yogendra Yadav characterised in an interview to Tehelka, as “the politics of anti-politics”. No one, not even Arvind, expected this to work on the scale it did. Or for people with such disparate political beliefs to be able to come together and stay together. Prashant Bhushan from the political left, Arvind who many see as liberal. Kiran Bedi who some see as liberal right.
Despite their united ‘We Are Family’ front, there was plenty of carping from the usual suspects during the Ram Lila fast last year. Liberal intellectuals in the media claimed that Team Anna was cozying up with Hindutva types on the sly, putting a pan-Indian gloss on a right-leaning movement. Right-leaning Hazare supporters claimed that Kejriwal and other jholawala types were corrupting the movement with their socialist agenda, and needed to be jettisoned immediately.
Those ideological cracks — real or imagined — were at the forefront again when the break finally occurred. A DNA story attributed the breakup to Anna’s secret tryst with right-leaning Ramdev, RSS et al:
“The RSS and the BJP have a clear role in what is happening between Hazare and his team. Before Anna met Kejriwal and others on Wednesday, he had a meeting with Ramdev on Tuesday night about which no one in Team Kejriwal had any idea about. Not only that, after meeting Kejriwal and company on Wednesday, Hazare again met Ramdev and several others,” sources told DNA, “Hazare has flirted around with Ramdev in the past also…”
Both sides may be trading accusations on all else, but they remain united on their staunch denials of an ideological rift. When pressed on CNN-IBN whether the parting of ways marked a right-left splintering, Kejriwal said, “I can’t talk about others; I can only talk about Anna. I don’t think Anna has ideological leanings. There is a problem and he tries to find solution to that… There is more practicality in Anna and our position. We try to figure out the problem and the solution to that. We try to find the solution rather than being guided by ideology”.
Anna too rebutted any RSS connection on his blog: “Now, there is an effort to link me with some party, or communal organisations. I have never in my life been a part of any such organisation. Till my last breath, I will not be part of any such thing… the movement has split due to politics.”
And to be fair, Kejriwal’s decision to form a political party was also opposed by left-leaning members of the original Team Anna, including most notably, Medha Patkar.
There is no doubt, however, that the divorce, irrespective of its causes, has created two more ideologically homogenous camps. A Hazare-Bedi combination may well yield a movement that is more open to affiliations with right-leaning groups and leaders — more so, without a Kejriwal or Bhushan to resist such moves. And a Kejriwal-led party may be more clearly aligned with his liberal leanings.
But it is unlikely that each will fully abandon their pan-ideological stance if only for reasons of pragmatism. Neither an anti-corruption movement nor a party can afford to alienate great parts of its constituency. The failed Lokpal movement underlined one important political lesson: Broader the appeal, bigger the clout. Both Anna and Arvind would be foolish to forget the benefits of that old “out-of-the-box thinking.”