The clarification by social activist Anna Hazare on his praising Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his “rural development model” has failed to satisfy his supporters who threatened to dissociate themselves from the movement against corruption.
“That is exactly what we are questioning: Mr. Modi's rural development model, based on the ground realities in Gujarat,” several social activists said in a joint statement. “Most of us in Gujarat working for the working class, women, farmers, Dalits, tribals, landless labourers and the downtrodden who wrote to you on April 11, have focussed on the development that Mr. Modi claims to have happened, but it is a contrast in reality,” they said.
On Mr. Modi writing to Mr. Hazare an open letter thanking him for the “endorsement” of his works and cautioning him about a possible “vilification campaign,” the activists told Mr. Hazare, “We hope now you realise the implications of your endorsement.”
They also expressed strong dissatisfaction over Mr. Hazare's “vague clarifications on communalism and politics” and for not saying anything about the Modi government's role in the 2002 communal riots. They urged Mr. Hazare to “look at the situation holistically and not in isolation as the communal forces in Gujarat use ‘development claims' to mask all their shortcomings,” the activists cautioned.
Mr. Hazare, in a statement, and in a letter to Ahmedabad-based danseuse Mallika Sarabhai clarified that he had only praised “the developmental works done by Mr. Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in rural areas.” “Alongside I clarified that I am equally opposed to any form of communal disharmony. I am completely opposed to any kind of communalism or discrimination on religious or caste lines. I strongly condemn and oppose any kind of communal violence,” he said.
Several social activists and human rights organisations threatened to dissociate themselves from the “People's Movement against Corruption” following his statement praising Mr. Modi.
Mr. Modi, on the other hand, wrote an open letter to Mr. Hazare for endorsing the “rural development model” being followed by his government and cautioned him against the possible vilification campaign by the “forces inimical to Gujarat.” Mr. Modi said he highly valued the opinion of the social activist who was his role model even before he joined politics and was an RSS Pracharak.
Claiming that the Modi government was “anti-farmer, anti-women, anti-working class, anti-Dalit, anti-tribal, anti-minorities and anti-all marginalised groups,” the social activists, in their statement, said they were deeply hurt by Mr. Hazare's “endorsement of the authoritarian government.” Presuming that Mr. Hazare could have made the statement out of ignorance of the real situation prevailing in Gujarat, they invited the social activist to visit the State to know for himself the “destructive development.” The signatories to the statement included State president of the People's Union for Civil Liberties J.S. Bandukwala; the director of human rights organisation, Prashant, Fr. Cedric Prakash; national fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, Ghanshyam Shah; and social activists Rohit Prajapati, Trupti Shah and Nandini Manjrekar.
Ms. Sarabhai, who was among the first to organise support rallies for Mr. Hazare when he launched his fast a week ago, not only demanded that the social activist withdraw his endorsement of Mr. Modi “irrevocably” but also expressed her indignation over the absence of a woman member on the panel approved by Mr. Hazare to draft the Lokpal Bill.
However, Ms. Sarabhai and other social leaders said they had “high regard” for Mr. Hazare, “but if Annaji is siding with someone who is indulging in corruption, we cannot be sitting with him on the same bench,” they said.
But most of them, including the Gujarat convener of the movement for “India Against Corruption,” Vinod Pandya, believed that Mr. Hazare was unaware of the real situation. “Let him come to Gujarat and see the things for himself.”