Within hours of Anna Hazare declaring that Team Anna’s job was over, India Against Corruption (IAC), the movement Hazare was leading for 18 months issued a statement saying an ‘inclusive’ preparatory committee was in the making, whose only purpose would only be to plan for the next phase. In contrast to Hazare’s close ended declaration that Team Anna’s job was over, the IAC statement struck a positive note. But the damage was already done.
Differences notwithstanding, the dissolution of Team Anna and Hazare’s words to this effect raise some pertinent points about the political alternative offered by his associates.
Hazare has set the pitch for the creation of a political alternative but it is now for the former members Team Anna who have to take it forward from here.
During the latest agitation at Jantar Mantar and in his blog, Hazare has repeatedly emphasised that he would play a limited role in the political alternative- he will not contest elections or be a part of the political party. Rather on his blog, he said he would “appeal to the people to look for candidates with good character for the Lok Sabha elections.”
“Once we identify such people, our workers will scrutinize them and their work before selecting them as candidates,” he said.
Therefore, Hazare’s job, will be to appeal to the people to identify candidates. One can assume that once his ‘workers’ scrutinise the identified candidates, Hazare will vouch for their credibility. This translates into a gradual shift to a more important and bigger role for Arvind Kejriwal. He has started the process of building a team for this task.
It involves convincing Jan Lokpal supporters including Akhil Gogoi from Assam, Santosh Hegde from Bangalore and Medha Patkar who have publicly expressed their displeasure over the decision of going political. If they don’t come along, Kejriwal and aides will have to start from scratch on building a support base in their home states and in regions where the idea of their political alternative is facing opposition. He will also have to work with those who are gung- ho with the concept of a political alternative and chalk out a strategy to ensure that at least 40 per cent of Lok Sabha candidates are honest and clean, which is Hazare’s dream he shared with the gathering at Jantar Mantar.
Despite his limited role, Kerjriwal and his supporters can hope to garner mileage from Hazare’s mass appeal. It is too ambitious to imagine the social activist influencing the voting pattern in a country where every state is marred with caste and identity wars, he can at least voice the agenda and manifesto of the political formation when it is finally born. Hazare can definitely be the mascot of the political party until it develops its own identity and voters.
Hazare’s presence will also mean that the group will have to synchronise its views on divergent issues and keep it in line with his ideology. So far, we have heard him talking about Jan Lokpal, Right to Reject, Right to Recall, empowering gram sabhas and selecting honest candidates.
But one expects a political party to take a stand on issues such as J&K, foreign direct investment and reservation for minorities among others. It will be interesting to see Hazare’s reaction if he disagrees with the group over these issues. Will the political alternative reach out to him or will it dump him after teething troubles?
In the short run, the group will have to assure Hazare over the concerns he has raised about the political alternative.
And it’s not like Hazare’s afraid of splitting from them.
“If your focus shifts to power and money, the party will be no different from other political parties. The day I see any deviation from the goal or hankering after money and power, I will stop right there,” he added.
But will Hazare survive or will he become a casualty of electoral politics?