Team Anna yet to decide on contesting Gujarat, HP polls



New Delhi: Having plumped for electoral politics, Team Anna may soon face the acid test on whether to contest the upcoming Assembly elections in BJP-ruled Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

Though it has made clear its intention to have a shot at power in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on an anti-corruption plank, Team Anna has not talked about contesting the Assembly elections slated this year-end.

Anna Hazare and his team have been targetting the UPA government on Lokpal issue for the past 16 months but they are yet to decide whether they would target the BJP governments in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh this year-end and Karnataka next year by contesting elections there.

Taking the political plunge, Team Anna has talked about a political alternative which they claimed will be people-centric.

"We have not yet decided," Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan told PTI when asked whether they would contest the Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat.

A meeting of the Core Committee will be held "very soon" in which various issues, including contesting Assembly elections, will be discussed, a Team Anna member said.

But the main agenda of the meeting would be the 'Swaraj Yatra' to drum up support for its political alternative and find new allies even as a section of its associates are unhappy with the decision to turn political.

Prominent Team Anna members Santosh Hegde and Medha Patkar have already voiced their opposition to the move while a number of volunteers, who were part of the movement and the fast at Jantar Mantar, left the venue in protest.

"We respect it as their decision but not ours. It's not a criticism of anyone, not even of process. I knew this, no shock either. Alternative politics is needed, but beyond party. Movements' politics should aim at power to people. It is easy for politicians to fight us on their turf," Patkar said.

Hegde has said he does not support Hazare floating a party but would campaign for candidates who identify with the movement against corruption.

When asked about the voices of opposition from within, Team Anna member Kumar Vishwas said no one is opposing the decision because all were taken into confidence. "They have their positions. It is only different opinions," he told a news agency.

Vishwas said they will soon sit together to chalk out plans for its country-wide tour which will have Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Kiran Bedi and others in attendance.

"Arvind, Manish and Gopal Rai, who were fasting for ten days, need some rest. We will soon meet and the decide on the yatra," Vishwas said.

The tour is part of Team Anna's initiative to seek suggestions from public on the political alternative they declared at the end of the fast here on Friday.

A Team Anna document 'alternative politics declaration' says they will embark on a nation-wide 'Swaraj Yatra' to spread their message, to learn from the people and to connect with friends and well-wishers and discover new allies.

They will also interact with youth across the country, especially in universities and colleges, besides having national consultation with other organisations and movements during the tour.

Defending its decision to go political, Team Anna said their numerous protests and fasts did not yield any result as the government stonewalled their demands and showed little interest in bringing those guilty of big scams to book.

"This is what brings us to this next step in our struggle. This move is not about capturing power but about changing the nature of state power.

"Our objective is to provide a political alternative that will be realised through an electoral revolution to democratise and decentralise power, and make the power structures more transparent and more accountable to the people," the declaration said.

Team Anna also said there is a need to reform and restructure the country's legislative, executive, administrative, judicial and policing institutions.

Referring to King Ashoka's edicts on governance, the declaration said the activists believe in democracy, where power is proximate to, consultative with and under the final control of the people.

There should be equality of opportunities and key outcomes, so that anyone's wellbeing is not at the expense of others or nature and freedom from arbitrary use of state or collective power.

"These are valuable but very general principles. We would like to work these out more fully in terms of concrete policies and positions in the course of the next few months," the declaration said.

"Realisation of this vision requires a new kind of political instrument. Usually this instrument is assumed to be a political party. Yet the prevailing form of a political party is not suited for this purpose.

"Almost all existing political parties are top-down organisations, claiming monopoly of truth, undemocratic and non-transparent in their functioning, controlled by a family or a clique and dependent on large amounts of illicit funds," it said.

An alternative political force has to search for an alternative to this dominant form of a political party, it added.

PTI