Team Anna cracks as two stalwarts quit

Team Anna cracks as two stalwarts quit

Politicisation of anti-graft campaign takes its toll

Team Anna cracks as two stalwarts quit

The decision of Team Anna —especially those of Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi—to campaign against the Congress in the Hisar Lok Sabha byelection came as a final straw as Singh and Rajagopal decided to distance themselves from the move.

Both Singh, and Rajagopal had joined the anti-graft team after some persuasion and their presence in the team was seen as a counter to the allegation that Team Anna represented a very small section of civil society.

Their support was important for IAC as both men have substantial credibility. Singh’s work on community-driven water conservation in arid Rajasthan has been a sustainable water model in other arid and semi-arid areas in the country.

Gandhi Peace Foundation vice-president Rajagopal’s efforts in mobilising the poor for land rights led to the much-acclaimed Janadesh 2007 four years ago, when 25,000 people marched to Delhi.

Dismayed at the anti-corruption campaign taking a political turn, Magsaysay award winner Singh said on Tuesday: “I was working with Anna on several issues like water management, land issues and other issue, but what has been taking place in last few days is wrong. I am not in favour of party politics.” He also accused Kejriwal of being undemocratic.

“I dissociate from the Team. The Team is turning political,” Singh said. Known for his activities in water conservation, Singh said he was never that active in the Team. “When I felt that the Team is taking a political turn, I decided it is the day to quit,” he said.

Ekta Parishad founder Rajagopal, who is on a year-long yatra of the country to generate support for land reforms including making Land Ceiling Act more stringent, has said in his resignation letter that the movement has become “political”. He has also shown unhappiness over difference between advocate Prashant Bhushan and Anna Hazare.

Rajagopal wrote to Core Committee Convenor Arvind Kejriwal about his decision, while Singh said he did not feel the need to write any letter as he had not sought membership in the first place. “There was no Core Group decision on Hisar. I will have difficulty in owning up decisions of individuals,” Rajagopal said.

The organisation first suffered cracks when Swami Agnivesh quit the core committee. Later, Justice Santosh Hegde criticized Hazare for the Hisar decision.  Bhushan, an active figure during Hazare’s fast at the Ramlila Grounds, supported plebiscite in Kashmir, although he explained the referendum should be tried after all other options were exhausted.

The exit of Singh and Rajagopal will weaken the IAC. Few NGOs working in the rural development and agriculture sector joined IAC, strengthening the impression that the movement was city-centric and elitist. According to IAC sources, Patkar agreed to join IAC after an assurance that the movement would remain non-political and secular.

Efforts to include noted social activist Aruna Roy, widely seen as the ‘mother’ of the RTI, however, failed due to her differences with Kejriwal, once her protege in the RTI movement.

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