Anti-corruption dream split down
the middle By Sudha
BANGALORE - Eighteen months
since they came together to launch an
anti-corruption crusade, social activists Anna
Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal have parted ways,
splitting the India Against Corruption (IAC)
campaign right down the middle.
Set up in
2010 amid mounting public anger over a slew of
mega corruption scams, IAC aimed at building mass
pressure on the government to enact legislation to
set up a Lokpal, that is, an anti-corruption
ombudsman, to prosecute politicians and civil
servants suspected of corruption.
rift will be welcomed by the political class.
The Indian political class' reluctance to
set up a Lokpal is
legendary. The idea was
first mooted in the early 1960s. A Lokpal bill was
introduced for the first time in parliament in
1969. Several versions of this bill have followed.
Then in 2010, IAC came up with its version
of the Lokpal bill and demanded its adoption.
Under massive public pressure, the government
began taking steps to enact legislation for
setting up an independent Lokpal. The bill was
passed by the lower house of parliament last
December but got stuck in the upper house, which
adjourned without passing the legislation.
The split in IAC will dissipate pressure
on the government to enact the legislation.
Although both Kejriwal and Hazare will
continue on their separate paths toward getting
the legislation enacted, much of their energy in
the coming months will be frittered away in
undermining each other. The two factions will
fight over who is the real inheritor of IAC's
mantle. A fight over its funds, which Kejriwal
controls, has already erupted.
this, with the Kejriwal faction set on
participating in elections, attention will be
consumed with setting up a political party,
raising funds, etc. While fighting corruption will
figure high on their agenda, pushing the
legislation will not enjoy the priority it did
The split in IAC was
precipitated by Kejriwal's decision to reinvent
the campaign as a political party. While his
critics accuse him of nursing political ambitions
right from the start, his decision seems to have
been prompted too by growing frustration with
parliamentarians and their reluctance to enact
Lokpal legislation. With their efforts from
outside parliament having failed to yield results,
Kejriwal and his supporters claim they want to
enter parliament to bring in the change they want
Also with IAC losing steam - its
rallies in recent months were poorly attended -
reinventing it was thought to be necessary. This
prompted Kejriwal to plunge into the electoral
He claims that the decision to set
up a party and fight elections has solid support.
He has cited a recent survey of 737,041 people
that showed 76% supported the move.
has rejected the findings of the survey as it was
conducted via social media. Opposed to the
electoral route to fighting graft and angry with
Kejriwal persisting with taking that path, he has
forbidden his onetime aide from using his name or
photographs to solicit votes.
dent Kejriwal's ability to draw votes given the
fact that it was Hazare who was IAC's main mascot
and crowd draw.
How well will the Kejriwal
faction fare in electoral politics? An excellent
strategist believed to be the architect of IAC,
Kejriwal's skills will no doubt come in handy in
building a party. But whether he will win seats in
an election is another matter.
a big role in India's elections. Will Kejriwal's
party be able to win support without buying votes,
as do other parties? Or will sheer survival compel
it to abandon its moral anti-corruption stance to
become "one of them"? By entering electoral
politics, has Kejriwal's party unwisely pitted
itself against players in an arena where the
advantage lies with the latter?
IAC's emergence, politicians of the ruling United
Progressive Alliance (UPA) have taunted Team Anna
members to prove mass support for their cause by
contesting elections. Has Kejriwal unwisely bitten
their bait? If his party does not perform well in
elections, it could spell the campaign's oblivion.
Importantly for the UPA, Kejriwal's entry
into the electoral arena will hurt the opposition
National Democratic Alliance. It will eat into
votes that would have gone to the NDA.
more interesting is the future of the Hazare
faction. Will his right-wing leanings come out in
the open now?
From its inception, IAC's
Hindu-nationalist leanings were apparent. It spoke
up about corruption, but only that in the
government. It was careful not to target
private-sector corruption or graft that has
emerged with India's economic liberalization, as
the urban middle class - its main support base -
have benefited from liberalization.
Kejriwal, who criticized corruption of the Indian
National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party -
he has repeatedly labeled all politicians as liars
and cheater - Hazare, former top cop Kiran Bedi
and others have focused their attacks on the
Congress. This month, Bedi said she was willing to
work with the "less corrupt" BJP.
course not everyone in the Hazare camp at present
is close to the BJP. Former judge Santosh Hegde
has fought long and hard against the corruption of
BJP ministers in the southern state of Karnataka.
While he is opposed to Kejriwal's decision to
fight elections, he would be just as opposed to
the Hazare camp moving into a closer clinch with
According to reports, Hazare met
yoga guru Baba Ramdev on the eve of the split.
Should he join forces with the rabble rousing
Ramdev, it could result in a further splintering
of the Hazare camp. To many Indians who looked
with hope to IAC, its splitting down the middle
has spelled the death of a dream. Moved by the
angry yet compelling speeches of "Team Anna"
members, they believed that change was possible
and that a corruption-free India would
miraculously emerge once the Lokpal as envisaged
by the team would be set up.
hope has now been dashed.
Ramachandran is an independent
journalist/researcher based in Bangalore.
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