The anti-graft activist tells AAP member to leave his village after the latter had a verbal clash with former Army Chief V.K. Singh, who accused the party of betraying the Gandhian.

The rift between anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) became public on Friday when he ordered the party’s senior leader Gopal Rai to leave his village. This followed a spat between the former Army Chief, General (retd.) V.K. Singh, and Mr. Rai. Both had arrived to support Mr. Hazare’s fast demanding the passage of the Lokpal Bill.

The altercation began with Gen. Singh’s speech, which indirectly targeted the AAP, accusing it of using Mr. Hazare’s platform for political gain. “We need to fight together. Instead some people have formed different groups and are taking undue advantage. They think Anna Hazare has become big because of them. This is wrong,” he said.

Mr. Rai, who was sitting in the audience, hit back by saying Gen. Singh also had political ambitions and was trying to get close to BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Mr. Hazare sided with Gen. Singh, by rebuking Mr. Rai. “If you want to create a ruckus, you can leave the village. You cannot interrupt Gen. Singh,” he said.

Mr. Hazare had made it clear that no politician will be allowed to share the stage with him, resulting in the AAP members sitting in the audience. He also asked Mr. Rai not to participate in the fast.

Speaking to reporters after leaving Ralegan Siddhi, Mr. Rai said, “The baseless allegation that we used Anna’s platform came from a man who has been following Mr. Modi around hoping for a favour. This altercation is diverting attention from the movement for a strong Lokpal Bill. There are a lot of people around Anna who are misleading him but we have faith that he will take the right decision at the right time.”

Mr. Rai claimed that Mr. Hazare and the AAP needed to work together to push for a strong Lokpal Bill.

Gen. Singh clarified that he had not mentioned the AAP in his speech. He, however, said they were opportunistic. “They [AAP members] thought Anna will follow them. But he is a man of principles, and he has stuck to his anti-politics stand.” Terming the allegations of his political ambition “imaginative,” he said he shared the stage with Mr. Modi only once at an ex-Servicemen rally and he did it as an Army man.

Seeking to downplay the spat, Mr. Hazare said, “I have always fought alone. People said the movement will weaken after some people left it. But today, people all around the country are demanding the Lokpal Bill.” Good people from all fields needed to come together. “There are good people in politics too,” he added.

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