Stay united Team Anna

Preeti Panwar

Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption united the nation like never before. People from all walks of life gathered at Ramlila Maidan – the epicenter of the movement in August - to fight the disease of corruption. The movement became a phenomenon in itself with almost everyone supporting Anna Hazare going to Ramlila Maidan.

That phase of the Anna movement ended on a positive note with the government in principle accepting all his demands for a strong (Jan) Lokpal Bill. But, the real outcome of the fast will be known after the Winter Session of Parliament when the Bill is likely to be passed. A determined Anna is ready to challenge the government again in case it fails to get the Lokpal Bill passed in the November-December session.

However, there is a catch. Of late, Team Anna has been hit by a series of controversies one after the other. No doubt, the government is trying to come up with a middle ground which can satisfy Team Anna and the masses without any hindrance in the functioning of the government. But, on the contrary, some recent episodes have shown that government is still trying to put Team Anna members on the back foot.

Team Anna has time and again clarified that it is not against the UPA or any political party; it is against corruption that has swallowed the nation’s economy and slowed down the development process but, ironically, it has also asked for vote against Congress, which was surprising.

The 74-year-old anti-corruption crusader initiated his ‘voyage’ as the captain of the ship and his team consisted of former Supreme Court judge, Justice Santosh Hegde, Swami Agnivesh, Arvind Kejriwal, former IPS officer Kiran Bedi, Supreme Court lawyers Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan, and Medha Patkar.

There is an old saying that “united we stand, divided we fall”.

Same is the case with Team Anna. When they were on the dais together, then the entire nation was with them chanting “I am Anna”. But, due to some differences Team Anna is now on the verge of disintegration. And the government is leaving no stone unturned in adding fuel to fire.

In the backdrop of a series of allegations, Team Anna is putting up a brave face before the nation and has been saying with conviction that there is no rift among the team members and that they are united against graft.

On October 13, key Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan was severely beaten up by three youths who claimed to be right-wing activists, in his Supreme Court chamber while he was giving an interview to a leading news channel. This act was to malign his image among the masses. Gandhian Anna Hazare distanced himself from the opinion of Prashant Bhushan on advocating plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir and the incident did create bitterness within the team.

Then, another key member of Team Anna, the hardliner and former IPS officer Kiran Bedi was caught in the air fare controversy. Bedi was accused of charging business class air fare from NGOs and other organisations while she travelled in economy class. She defended herself by saying she did not personally benefit and that the money saved was used for her NGO’s activities. But not everybody is convinced.

Importantly, Anna advised Bedi that allegations levelled against her should not hamper her work.

Similarly, Arvind Kejriwal faced allegations of diverting donations for Team Anna to his trust. Kejriwal was even slammed for being arrogant (why send cheque to PM than to govt?) and that he may be the reason for other members quitting the team.

But, whatever the reason, the nation must not let the voice against corruption raised by Anna Hazare die down for the betterment of the country. The Gandhian, along with his soldiers (team), successfully managed to unite the masses and that too without any violence.

The government is also levelling allegations against Team Anna that it is working for the RSS and BJP, without any substantial evidence. What complicated the matter further was Mohan Bhagwat’s assertion that Anna has always been close to RSS, although Team Anna members have time and again clarified that neither they, nor Anna Hazare, intend to join politics.

But they did succeed in putting the Congress on the back foot by campaigning against the party in Hisar bypolls. Anna said that the campaign was to make people aware of their duty to vote for the right candidate and to give a strong message to the government that it must pass the Jan Lokpal Bill in the coming Winter Session.

Congress spokesperson Digvijay Singh even slammed the BJP-RSS, saying Ramdev was their Plan-A, Anna Plan-B and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Plan-C in their campaign against the government.

So far, Team Anna has been determined to bring the Jan Lokpal Bill. Anna even went on a 19-day long Maun Vrat (vow of silence) in order to ensure no fresh controversial statements are released. Although, officially, the maun vrat was observed for reasons related to health.

The government should fulfil its promise of passing the Jan Lokpal Bill in the coming Winter Session to win back the lost confidence of people, and it should remain loyal and transparent in its functioning. And this is applicable to all the political parties in India whether they are in power or not.

Serving the nation with honesty and providing its people the platform to raise their voice against any wrongdoing should be the agenda of a democratic government. After all, we the people of India have elected the government. Isn’t it?

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