Even as the trustee-cum-travel agent who handled Team Anna member Kiran Bedi's travel account quit her NGO washing his hands off the controversy over inflated bills, activist Arvind Kejriwal has accused the government of mounting a smear campaign against them to divert attention from the Lokpal Bill.
“Probe us, hang us if you feel we are tainted, but bring the Lokpal Bill!” he said talking to journalists here. To take stock of the situation, the Team Anna core committee will meet here on Saturday. It is not clear yet if activist Anna Hazare will come out of his self-imposed vow of silence to chair the meeting.
On the agenda will be issues like Ms. Bedi's demeanour in charging inflated travel bills from her hosts, lawyer Prashant Bhushan's remarks on plebiscite in Kashmir, the notices from the Income Tax department to Mr. Kejriwal for dues and disassociation of two members from the anti-Congress campaign before the winter session of Parliament when the amended Lokpal Bill is expected to be tabled.
Seeking to defend the Team Anna members, Mr. Kejriwal bemoaned that “first there was mud-slinging against them and then fingers were pointed at them to say that they were tainted”.
On activist Swami Agnivesh's charge that India Against Corruption (IAC) donations were deposited in Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF) run by him and were un-audited still, Mr. Kejriwal said the IAC was a “movement'' not an institution. “It is well-known that PCRF was working as a secretariat for IAC. All accounts had been audited till March 2011. For the rest, auditors found it difficult to audit accounts for six months; even so, to maintain transparency they are working on it and audited accounts will be out by October 31.”
Alleging that core committee members were being “targeted'' by the government, he said, “Income tax authorities collected Ms. Bedi's travel documents and fed information to the Indian Express . Is the IT Department's only job to pull out files against Team Anna and leak them to the media? And, in a population of 120 crore people, can only saints and sadhus raise a voice against corruption?''
Questioned about the moral high ground assumed by Team Anna in its fight against corruption, he lashed out, “Whether Kiran Bedi has paid bills or not has become a national issue. If Kiran Bedi has committed a crime, hang her, send her to jail, but talk about the Lokpal Bill. What has the mud-slinging on us as individuals got to do with the Lokpal Bill? The Government must understand that their ways and methods are increasing the anger among people. If this continues then the next movement will be ten times bigger [than Ramlila ground].''
Asked about Congress leader Digvijay Singh's allegation that the Anna movement was close to RSS, Mr. Kejriwal declined to comment.
Meanwhile, the Congress has dismissed Mr. Hazare's charges that those in the government were behind the campaign against his team and expressed hurt at the use of phrase “gang of four” in the government by him.