Almost a year after his Ramlila Maidan fast for Lokpal took the nation by storm and brought the government to his doorstep, Gandhian Anna Hazare and his colleagues broke their “indefinite” fast on Friday on a much more low-key note.
Team Anna vowed to “cleanse politics” but its decision to plunge into electoral politics is seen as a response to the anti-corruption movement’s reduced traction that encouraged the government not to offer Hazare an olive branch by way of negotiations.
The resolve to wage an electoral battle also split the activists with Justice Santosh Hedge and Narmada agitator Medha Patkar publically expressing their discomfiture with the move.
But Team Anna seems set for a political debut with former army chief Gen V K Singh also joining the activists on stage at Jantar Mantar, indicating that the activists plan to bolster their movement by attracting persons who enjoy a high degree of credibility to their fold.
Transforming the movement from a focused pro-Lokpal stir to a political platform can be a gamble. But while the Congress drew some relief from the developments, it might be premature for the ruling party to assume that public anger over graft has evaporated. The Team Anna decision might, however, force the BJP to recast its strategy as it has backed the movement, believing it hurts the Congress the most. Retorting to the government’s claim that the move exposes their political ambitions, Team Anna said it was challenging the Congress-led government to a political fight. “We will uproot the current corrupt government,” Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal said.
Just how far the movement can harm the Congress is to be seen although the opposition will hope that the activists continue to distract the government and erode the ruling coalition’s urban support.
Hazare said he will not launch a party or fight elections. “I will go around the country for the next one and a half years to give an alternative,” he said. Gen Singh was clearly a big draw. He criticized the Centre’s failure in implementing policies that serve people.