A splinter group has emerged from Anna Hazare’s new team, signaling cracks in the apolitical movement Hazare was supposed to lead after parting ways with Arvind Kejriwal.
Ten days after Hazare inaugurated his new office in South Delhi’s Sarvodya Enclave, the splinter group of around ten volunteers has rented a flat in Kaushambi, near Delhi- Ghaziabad border, for its activities. The group comprises volunteers who joined the Jan Lokpal movement in April 2011 when Hazare observed his first fast at Jantar Mantar.
After the split in erstwhile Team Anna, this group was seen actively working with Hazare and was present at Maharashtra Sadan on November 10 when the social activist announced his new core committee.
“There are times when we agree with the ideology of both, Arvind Kejriwal and Anna Hazare, and we want to extend issue-based support to both. So, we decided we should shift to a new office so that we are not tagged as belonging to a camp,” said Atul Bal, IIT Kharagpur alumni and one of the volunteers in the new faction.
The first crack among volunteers, in the new Team Anna, appeared over finalising the team’s new office for coordinating its activities in Delhi/ NCR. Kaushambi office, which the splinter group has now rented, was earlier considered for Hazare’s office as it was close to the ISBT, metro station and railway station, thus seen as providing easy access to supporters.
On 3 November, a tweet by @Janlokpal, official twitter handle of Hazare’s apolitical movement, read, “finalises KA-1, Kaushambi, Ghaziabad, as Anna's office in Delhi NCR. Pooja and inauguration on November 5.”
But things did not go as per the plan. An important reason why some key members of the group including Hazare were not keen on the Kausambi address, was its proximity to Kejriwal’s office, said a volunteer who did not wish to be named. “It was around 500 meters from PCRF office. Some members thought it would not send a good message to Anna’s followers and would become a talking point in the press. But there were others who believed that the office should not be rejected solely because it is close to Arvind’s office,” he said.
Hazare, on his one-day trip to New Delhi, on November 6, approved the Sarvodya Enclave office which was inaugurated on November 10.
Many volunteers find it difficult to reach the Sarvodya Enclave office because of no metro connectivity.
There are also murmurs about the high rent being paid for this office as compared to the more affordable Kaushambi office.
The second apparent reason for the widening rift in Hazare’s new team is the increasing communication gap between the social activist and volunteers in Delhi. It has been learnt that many volunteers are unhappy with the fact that Hazare now only interacts with a coterie which comprises of mainly of new faces including Lt Gneral (rtd) Bejender Khokar and Rashid Rafiq, both of whom are members of the new core committee.
“We salute Anna for what he has done for the nation. But we realised that lately a firewall had developed between volunteers and Anna. Rather than working in that office (Sarvodya Enclave), we decided it would be better if we do something constructive here,” said Atul Bal, indicating his displeasure with the current state of affairs in Hazare’s new team.
Bal added that many volunteers did not like Kiran Bedi laying claim to ‘IAC’ brand name. “IAC is nobody’s personal property. We will give a slogan- Na Anna ka, na Arvind ka…IAC desh ki janta ka.”
About the breakaway faction, Kiran Bedi, member of Hazare’s new core committee, said, “I have heard about the development. I don’t know why they did it. But as long as they are working for the right cause, they have all the right to do function from wherever they wish. There has to be a feel good factor about it.”
When contacted by Firstpost, Lt General Khokhar (rtd), said, ``This is news for me. I believe these are people who have ambiguity in their minds and want to be with both, the movement and the political party. Whoever is working with Anna, is coming to the Sarvodya Enclave office. There is no crack or divide in the new team as no core committee member is going away.’’
He also rubbished the connectivity problem cited by Bal. ``There is no connectivity issue with this office. The nearest metro station is around a kilometer away and there are buses which ply on this route. This is a better office as volunteers from Delhi and NCR can all come here.’’