Soon after Team Anna decided to explore the political alternative, anti-corruption activists Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal, whose fast entered the fifth and ninth day here on Thursday, pointed to the challenges of electoral politics.
Primary among the concerns raised by Mr. Hazare and Mr. Kejriwal were the selection of candidates with excellent credentials, creating checks and balances on elected functionaries, and the problem of tackling money power that dominates elections today.
Mr. Hazare said he would not fight elections or vie for political power.
A letter signed by retired Supreme Court judges V.R. Krishna Iyer and N. Santosh Hegde, General (retd.) V.K. Singh and Admiral (retd.) Ram Tahiliani, former Chief Election Commissioner J. M. Lyngdoh, social activist Sandip Pandey, political commentator Yogendra Yadav, actor Anupam Kher, and many other bureaucrats, activists, and academicians criticised the political establishment for not responding to the demands of ordinary citizens for a strong anti-corruption legislation. They requested the four activists (including Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai) to call off their fast.
“Instead, we call upon them to focus their energies on creating an alternative political force that is democratic, accountable, ethical and non-violent and capable of leading an electoral revolution to democratise and decentralise power and make the power structures of the country more accountable to the people,” the letter said.
Immediately after the letter was read out by Mr. Kher, Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan came on stage and requested IAC supporters to use social networking services and write to IAC’s email address, post on its Facebook page, reply to its Twitter handle and send text messages to express their opinion on the anti-corruption movement taking a political turn.
Mr. Hazare said: “I have realised that neither this government nor the Opposition will pass the Jan Lokpal Bill. I feel entering politics is the correct and only option.”
He, however, voiced his misgivings. Even good people who got elected changed colours once in positions of power, he felt. “It is common to hear about Lok Sabha candidates spending Rs.15-20 crore. How do we elect 300 candidates without spending much money?”
Mr. Hazare placed the onus of the movement on the youth and said it would succeed only with decentralisation of power.
Mr. Kejriwal said: “How do we find patriotic candidates with good character? Today we have 162 MPs with criminal and corruption charges against them. We will let down people if our own candidates become like present-day politicians.”
“We are not looking for political power changing hands. Our aim is systemic change,” he said, while requesting people to write in their opinions.