Almost two months after his split with Arvind Kejriwal-led group, Anna Hazare on Saturday unveiled his new team to take his “apolitical” anti-corruption battle forward with a promise to expand the panel within a month in which former Army chief V K Singh could be a special invitee.
The first list does not have names like that of the former Army chief or activists P.V. Rajagopal and “Waterman” Rajinder Singh and agriculture expert Devender Sharma.
Mr. Rajagopal and Mr. Singh had earlier snapped ties with Team Anna while Mr. Sharma had opposed Kejriwal-led group’s plans to turn the movement political.
Sources said V.K. Singh could be inducted as a special invitee in the Coordination Committee.
A press statement issued by the group said Mr. Hazare reconstituted the Coordination Committee to re-energise India Against Corruption (IAC) movement, signalling a possible confrontation with the Kejriwal-led group which is still using the name. Mr Hazare had a split with Kejriwal-led group over the question of anti-graft movement taking a political course.
Mr. Hazare announced the 15-member Coordination Committee, which has erstwhile Team Anna’s members Justice (retd.) Santosh Hegde, Kiran Bedi, Medha Patkar, Akhil Gogoi, Sunita Godara, Arvind Gaur, Shivendra Singh Chauhan and Rakesh Rafiq.
The new faces in the committee are former DGP (Punjab) Shashikant, former IAS officer Avinash Dharmadhikari, Lt. Col. Brijendra Khokhar, Ran Singh Arya, activist Akshay Kumar and agri expert Vishambhar Chaudhary.
“I had sent an invite for Gen. V.K. Singh (for Saturday’s meeting). He will be meeting me later,” Mr. Hazare told reporters in New Delhi after a day-long meeting of the committee. Mr. Hegde and Mr. Dharmadhikari could not attend the meeting due to their preoccupations.
Giving details of the action plan, Mr. Hazare said the coordination committee will be expanded by including around 40 more eminent citizens within a month.
Speaking about the agenda of the movement, he said that “after the split, there have been some doubts that I have become silent and there is no forward movement. We have never stopped.
“The movement is on. We don’t want the useless government Lokpal. We will fight for a strong Lokpal, decentralisation, Right to Reject, Citizens Charter and system change. If we have all these laws, 90 per cent of corruption can be eradicated,” he said.
“The government does not have the intention. If they bring Lokpal, they know 15 ministers will be in jail. Why should they do it then?...We will ensure that crores of people rise and ensure that the government be forced to enact the law,” he said adding government will have to bring Lokpal Bill before next general elections.
However, Mr. Hazare said the movement’s intention is not to assemble crowds but bring about a change in the system.
Touching upon land acquisition, he alleged government was “gifting” farmers’ land to foreign companies. “If farmers don’t leave their land, first they use lathis. If they continue to resist, then bullets are fired on them.
"...it is necessary to stop foreign companies from coming to the country. These foreign companies are privatising water, rivers, forests. If we do not stop them today, then the future will be bleak,” he said.
On the issue of using the name IAC, Mr. Hazare said he was not for confrontation and if the Kejriwal-led group gives it, he will take it. “Earlier you remember, my photo was in the banners of IAC,” he said indicating that he would prefer to use it.
However, Ms. Bedi said it was not Mr. Hazare who moved out of the movement but others (Kejriwal-led group). “They will be announcing the new name of the party. So, it won’t be a problem on the name,” she said.