October 21, 2011

Has Team Anna Lost Its Way?

With two of its core members quitting the committee and more expected to follow their steps, Team Anna, embroiled in fresh controversies, seems to have lost its way. The movement that began with a great cause is at the brink of self-destruction now with its disparate members who came together fired by their individual cause and ambition, are choosing to walk the path of dissension on ideological differences.

Team anna

As the apolitical nature of the movement fades away, the group is imploding at its own political peril. It?s an undeniable fact that it's the non-partisan character that earned the great goodwill and lion share of support for Anna Hazare and his mighty team. It's not just the mass appeal the team gathered over the last year is slipping away from its grip, rather the confidence that it has built among the masses that is weakening over the internal issues. While there are hundreds of reasons to corner the Congress Party in the Hisar by-polls, it's the undemocratic decision to campaign against the Congress party by a few of its prominent members that irked activists P V Rajagopal and 'Waterman' Rajinder Singh who quit the core committee. They have publicly accused that the team is turned political.

Signs of possible cracks in the team first spotted were during Anna's indefinite fast at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi. Video footage of one of its initial members and a well-known civil activist Swami Agnivesh was leaked in which he was allegedly heard talking over the phone to someone called Kapilji, said to be a strong critic of the movement Kapil Sibal, asking for strict actions on the stubborn ways of the movement's functions. The Team later decided to disassociate with Swami Agnivesh completely.


Later the statement from Magsaysay Award winner and Anna Hazare's chief lieutenant Arvind Kejriwal that Anna Hazare was above Parliament initiated a hot political debate. The ruling government as well as some political observers viewed this comment as contrary to every constitutional principle. Prime Minister responded to this by saying, "I am not aware of any constitutional philosophy or principle that allows anyone to question the sole prerogative of Parliament to make a law." Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said, "the way the civil society movement is continuing in the country, it gives the impression that the leaders have become legislators."

One of team's prominent public faces, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan's continuance in the team remains to be an issue hard nut to crack for the team as his call for a plebiscite on Kashmir has created ripples within the movement. Hinting an end of his close association with the Supreme Court layer, Anna Hazare has made it clear that Bhushan?s continuation in the team would be reconsidered. Anna went on to blog that he is even willing to fight against for Kashmir as against those who merely talk.

Former Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde also has voiced his displeasure over the decision to campaign against the Congress in Hisar. "It was not the right thing to do and "we jumped the gun," he said about the controversial political decision. "I believe the (Hazare) movement is and should be apolitical. Even before Parliament could debate the Lokpal Bill, they went to Hisar and campaigned against the Congress. I don't think it was the right thing to do," he was quoted as saying in PTI.

Kiran Bedi

Already plagued with internal crisis, Team Anna is now hit by yet another controversy as fresh allegations were made against its key member Kiran Bedi that she charged her hosts full fare on air tickets while availing discounts. It's alleged that she used her gallantry medal to get 75 percent discount on Air India tickets and then submitted inflated invoices to claim full fare from the organizers who have invited her to a function, reports PTI.

Reacting to the allegations, Bedi told PTI, "business class travel is part of the invitation/entitlement from the event organizers/corporates I'm asked to speak at. Travelling economy is a choice despite entitlement is to ensure that savings remain with the NGO. There is no personal gain here. Sorry to disappoint detractors trying real hard to find a smoking gun. However, I accept this kind of coverage as a part of the challenges which being in public life poses," she said. Rubbishing the allegations as baseless, she also added that the money "saved" went to NGO India Vision Foundation run by her.

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