Anna Hazare’s broad-based anti-corruption alliance ‘India Against Corruption’ seems all set to form a new political party after Anna’s supporters voted overwhelmingly in favor of the option, according to initial trends. Anna Hazare himself said he was in agreement with the requests of his followers.
“I will not be part of any party, but I will ensure that people get an alternative in the form of a political party. But you will have to examine who the people in this party are. Are they honest? Is their character correct? Is he patriotic? You will have to ensure that the corrupt don’t get into such a party,” he said.
Out of the nearly 2,900 votes cast as of 3 pm, nearly 87.5% were in favor of a ‘political alternative’ — or direct entry into politics by Team Anna.
In addition, several notable persons including former army chief VK Singh, former Supreme Court justice VK Krishnaiyer and former chief election commissioner J M Lyngdoh, called on Team Anna to break the fast and offer a political alternative.
The move has also come after the Congress Party led UPA government refused to heed calls for setting up a strong anti-corruption body.
“They should write to the United Nations. In India what can be more independent than the Supreme Court. They want independent probe into matters which have been rejected and disapproved by the Supreme Court,” Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid recently said when asked about Team Anna’s request for holding an inquiry into corruption allegations against central government ministers.
Team Anna has been on a fast for ten days and Anna Hazare himself has been on a fast for the last five days, despite doctors warning him not to go ahead with such a move on health concerns.
The question of forming a political party had always been at the back of the minds of activists, but had been seen as a less than suitable one due to the ‘bad name’ associated with politics in India.
While some of the members of the rainbow coalition had been pushing for a more overt political role for India Against Corruption — a term coined by activist Arvind Kejriwal, Anna Hazare himself had been reluctant to commit to such a course of action.
Anna Hazare had always maintained that it is possible to convince the politicians to heed the demand for setting up a strong anti-corruption body without having to fight elections and send members of his alliance into the Parliament.
However, Hazare and his supporters soon realized that even when the Government was half willing, individual members of the Indian Parliament were not very keen to support his version of a strong Lokpal bill. The bill was torn up and mocked in the Indian Parliament.
“The Indian Parliament has acted with unity only on two occasions, when it came to increasing their perks and when it came to opposing the Janlokpal bill. As such, I am in agreement with your demand for putting up a political party,” Anna Hazare said.
As such, India Against Corruption broadened its attack in the second phase of its campaign, this year, to ‘Cleanse the Parliament’ instead of just attacking the party in power.
Parliamentary debates on the anti-corruption bill had MPs of most parties, including opposition members like Shiv Sena, oppose the demand for setting up an anti-corruption ombudsman with investigation powers.
Hazare however pointed out that only the best people can be sent to the Parliament and it was not easy to find people who are honest, patriotic and a ‘seva-bhavi’ attitude.
“How will we select such people,” he asked. “You will find lots of talkers, where will you find the doers?” he said.
“Each candidate spends Rs 15-20 crore for an election to the Parliament. Where will we find the money from? How will we fight an election without money?” he asked.
Arvind Kejriwal urged the people to suggest a method of selecting clean people, to prevent corrupt people from being IAC’s candidates. “You have to remember that people like Lalu Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav were thrown up by JP’s movement,” he said.
Hazare also said he wanted more decentralization of power. “We have to bring laws to implement decentralization. The resources of villages do not belong to the government sitting in Delhi and Mumbai. The resources, whether it is coal or water or power belong to the village,” he said.
Hazare said he supported the devolution of more power to village governments. He also clarified that he will remain outside the party as such.
He said a great political party can bring about more development in three years than what India has been able to achieve in the last 60 years.
But he said the people themselves have to change their attitudes and character before such a revolution can take place. “Now, people think ‘if my neta can drink brandy, what is wrong if I drink country'” he said, referring to country liquor.
Political pundits believe that such a party, if formed, will have a good chance of sending some representatives to the Parliament from urban centres such as Delhi and Mumbai, which are dominated by the middle class.
In rural areas, however, politics in India is intertwined with communal and ethnic identities and many people often vote for someone who belongs to their own ethnic group, instead of voting for someone on the basis of ideology or performance.
However, Anna Hazare’s fast has already created ripples in many areas, including very backward ones such as in the eastern part of the country. The movement, mirroring Indian National Congress in its initial days, has been the strongest in the Hindi-speaking belt.