The odd couple: Confusion reigns in Anna-Mamata presser

New Delhi: Anti-corruption crusader leader Anna Hazare today held a press conference in New Delhi, announcing support for Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

"I have never supported any political party nor will I do so even after the elections," said Anna Hazare, causing some initial confusion about whether he would actually end up campaigning for Mamata and TMC. Hazare then went on to say that, "However in Didi’s case, I have decided to offer her my support and to whoever honest candidates she nominates in the election," said Anna indicating that he would travel around the country to support Didi’s candidates.

Social activist Anna Hazare with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTI

Social activist Anna Hazare with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTI

As far as his reasons for supporting Mamata are concerned, Anna outlined two. "Didi is a rare leader. She is the chief minister of a state and could have chosen to live in a bungalow and drive around in a big car. Yet she has chosen to lead a simple life and I feel that I should support someone like here,” he said.

The other reason for Anna’s support seemed to be Mamata’s endorsement of the 17 points that Anna’s Jantantra Morcha has put out to bring ‘change’ in the country. "I had sent these points to every chief Minister. Only Didi responded, it shows she is serious about working for the people,” said Anna. The Jantantra Morcha is an organisation started by Anna. As far as 2014 elections are concerned, it is unlikely to function as a political party.

While Anna didn't outline a specific plan for 2014, he seems to have set sights on 2019 already. He spoke of setting up a possible political front for the 2019 elections with the Jantantar Morcha.

"There are still another five years to go for the 2019 elections. We hope that our Jantantra Morcha will be able to get nearly 100 candidates by then who are honest and will be ready to serve the nation,” the social activist said.

When asked if Arvind Kejriwal had responded to his points, Anna said he never got a reply from the Aam Aadmi Party leader. Anna’s 17 points include the setting up of Lokpal and Lokayukta in every state, improving administration at the village level, a new tax policy and return of black money to name a few.

What was clear from the press conference was that Anna had formed some sort of political alliance with the TMC. Anna also stressed on the fact that he was not supporting either Narendra Modi or even Arvind Kejriwal.

Mamata gave a hint of how this alliance with Anna would work. "We (TMC) will be contesting in all the 42 seats in West Bengal, in some seats in Assam, in Tripura and Manipur. We have a strong base in these states. However, in North and South India, Anna ji will be advising be on which candidates we should support. We will look for honest candidates," she said.

The Trinamool chief however did not specify the states on which Anna would give advice to the TMC. Nor was it clear if TMC itself would field candidates or would they be a part of the Jantantra Morcha. Given that Anna enjoys a strong influence in Maharashtra, it is likely that he will give some advice on the state. The AAP has claimed that it has seen a strong support in Maharashtra, but if Anna does come out in full support for TMC, or even fields his own candidates, it could be worrying for the new party.

Mamata also took the opportunity to lash out at the Central government saying that the job of the government was not just to keep demanding revenue from state government. "The Central government functions like a feudal landlord. Just demand taxes from states and then use the fear of CBI against those who oppose you. My government has ensured that our growth rate is double that of the centre. Our revenue collection is also very high. Nor is there any power crisis in West Bengal," the chief minister said.

The TMC leader’s remarks at the press conference indicated that her party is likely to contest from a 100 or so seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, if one were to include the alliance with Anna.

On the question of offering political support to other parties she emphatically stated, "We will not support Congress or BJP."

So far as the press conference was concerned, it was clearly an attempt by the TMC and its leader to show that they are a force to be reckoned with in the 2014 elections. By getting the support of Anna Hazare, seen as a grassroots level leader and one who has pan-India recognition, the TMC is hoping to get some gains from the popular social movement in the upcoming elections.

Updated Date: Feb 26, 2014 15:29 PM

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