New Delhi, Aug 6: Sixteen months after he took India by storm, activist Anna Hazare Monday announced that he was disbanding Team Anna and ending the work begun in its name.
The dramatic declaration, three days after the group announced it would join the political mainstream to boost its fight against corruption, took some of his own close aides by surprise.
Hazare, however, made it clear on his blog that the anti-corruption movement would remain alive and that he would work to provide a “political alternative” to serve the people.
Former police officer Kiran Bedi, a key Team Anna member, tweeted: “Read Anna’s blog. Do not know what all it means.”
In Bangalore, former Supreme Court judge N. Santosh Hegde told a news channel that he was surprised by the decision to disband the group.
“I was against the political move… feel sorry for the reason that the movement started by Anna for a strong Lokpal was need of the hour.
“It (movement) had progressed sufficiently and controversy or difference of opinion in regard to whether Team Anna should contest elections or not is unfortunate and which must have led to Anna disbanding the team,” he said.
Others appeared perplexed.
“Annaji has written everything in the blog; there is nothing to add. For more information only Anna can talk,” Manish Sisodia, who had fasted along with Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Gopal Rai for a stringent Jan Lokpal bill at Jantar Mantar here last week, told IANS.
After the bombshell, Hazare refused to talk to the media. The 75-year-old, who flew back to Pune, will be back in Delhi to join yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s protest against black money Aug 9.
“Today we end the work of Team Anna,” he said in his blog in Hindi. He admitted he was criticised by many people after it was announced that Team Anna would work for a political alternative.
“Team Anna was formed to work for the Jan Lokpal. We have decided not to keep any relations with the government. So the work that started in Team Anna’s name has ended here and the Team Anna committee also ends here.”
Hazare said he would be travelling across the country to awaken people.
“Despite repeated agitations, the government is not ready to pass the Jan Lokpal bill. We will have to find good candidates and give an alternative to the people. This is a good way, I think so, but how will it happen is the question.
“We have to see people’s response because Jantar Mantar is not India,” he said.
It was near Jantar Mantar – an observatory in the heart of the capital – that Hazare fasted for five days in April 2011, forcing the government to talk to him. He launched a longer hunger strike at Ramlila ground here in August, drawing tens of thousands.
However, a later show of strength in Mumbai and the latest fast at Jantar Mantar failed to draw similar crowds.
Hazare proposed a kind of a referendum on the political alternative, saying activists would seek the opinion of 6.5 lakh gram sabhas or village councils on whether they would support such a move.
Hazare said he would “not join the system but will support it from outside”. If he did decide to support a political alternative, he said he “should be sure that no corrupt person has reached parliament”.
The decision saw similar reactions from the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“Anna himself doesn’t have confidence in his team, that is the reason he has taken this decision,” said Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi.
BJP’s Prakash Javadekar said it was “bound to happen” and everyone had the right to fight elections.
Author Chetan Bhagat, who was supporting the cause, said: “Just because you are passionate about a cause does not make up for the lack of negotiation and leadership skills.”
As the controversy swirled, India Against Corruption (IAC) said while the “core committee” had been disbanded, a preparatory committee would come up for the next phase of the anti-corruption movement.
“This would be very inclusive,” it said, in an indirect admission of charges that Hazare had in recent times been monopolised by Bedi, Kejriwal and Bhushan.
“It would include people with mass base and representing various sections and movements.”