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Whither Team Anna?

Sunday October 30, 2011 05:11:59 PM, George Joseph, IANS

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Team Anna core group stays, warns Congress on Lokpal bill

Conveying a sense of unity after a series of controversies dogged key members, Team Anna Saturday declared that its core committee will not be disbanded and threatened to campaign against the  

New Delhi: Anna Hazare is already planning his next move, with Team Anna having put up a united front in the face of controversies surrounding some key leaders, say his supporters. But political analysts say repairing the damage to the anti-corruption movement will be easier said than done.

The core committee of India Against Corruption (IAC) - the umbrella organisation of the Anna movement - held a crucial meeting in Ghaziabad Saturday after coming under attack from within and outside. But it decided against disbanding the committee and warned the government against targeting its leaders.

"Hazare is a strategist who can understand the ways of the government and the political forces working against the movement. He may take the next step in revamping the movement without disowning the current leaders and giving an impression that he is undertaking a cleansing act," an IAC leader told IANS, not wishing to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to the media on the group's functioning. .

Hazare, 74, who is on a "maun vrat" (vow of silence) since Oct 15 and was therefore absent from the meeting, Sunday met key team members Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan at his native Ralegan Siddhi village.

"He will utilise the interaction with Team Anna leaders Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bushan to take stock of the organisational set-up," the IAC leader said.

"Hazare is a veteran who will try to consolidate the gains of his two fasts in New Delhi this year and continue his mission for a strong Lokpal bill. He will use this phase of silence as an occasion for introspection and plan his future course. His aim is to be remembered as the leader who led the agitation for the enactment of the Lokpal bill."

Bedi, a former top and one of those dogged by allegations of financial impropriety, told IANS, "There are no cracks in the movement. The popular support to the movement continues."

But political analysts disagree.

"The credibility of Team Anna has been deeply dented. The movement is in a precarious situation and the leadership in disarray," Mridula Mukherjee, professor in New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, told IANS.

Kerala-based political analyst B.R.P Bhaskar told IANS over phone: "Allegations of financial misappropriation by Bedi and Kejriwal have tarnished the image of the IAC to some extent. We have to see whether Team Anna sorts out their problems."

Besides Hazare, other leaders like activist Medha Patkar and former Supreme Court judge N. Santosh Hegde did not attend the core committee meet and cited pre-fixed engagements as reasons for it.

Only 16 of the original 26 core members of IAC were present. Two members - Gandhian activist P.V. Rajagopal and Magsaysay award winner Rajendra Singh - have already resigned to protest the politicisation of the movement.

As the leaders of the IAC allege that the "dirty tricks department" of the government was working to tarnish the image of the movement", ministers have been discreet.

"It (rift) is their internal affair. It is between them. Why should we involve ourselves in it?" Law Minister Salman Khurshid had told reporters when asked about divisions in the Team Anna.

While allegations of financial impropriety were levelled against Kejriwal and Bedi, Prashant Bhushan was attacked by rightwing activists for his suggestion for a plebiscite on the Kashmir issue. Hazare himself criticised Bhushan for the statement.

Kejriwal, described as autocratic by Rajendra Singh, has said he is ready to mend his ways.

As for the criticism that the movement had been politicised with Kejriwal running an anti-Congress campaign in the recent Hisar Lok Sabha seat by-poll, he said they would not have done it, if the letter of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, assuring the tabling of the Lokpal bill in the winter session of parliament, had come earlier.

But will these efforts by Team Anna leaders be enough?

"The IAC leaders don't have the depth, track record or the stamina to lead a genuine movement, unlike our freedom fighters," Mukherjee said. "What is worrying me is the demoralisation likely to set in from the floundering of the movement."

(George Joseph can be contacted at george.j





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