'Anna and Congress joined forces to counter AAP'

Published: Dec 19, 2013, 00:10 IST | Priyankka Deshpande |

Political experts claim that Congress, in a fright after Arvind Kejriwal crushed it in the Delhi assembly polls, joined hands with the anti-corruption campaigner and passed the Lokpal bill to break the AAP spell on the public

After the Lokpal Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha yesterday, anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare ended his fast in Ralegan Siddhi, in the presence of his ardent supporters Kiran Bedi and former army chief V K Singh, amid roaring celebrations.

Smelling victory: Anna Hazare with Kiran Bedi after he broke the fast yesterday. Pic/AFP

While Hazare’a supporters said that it was due to his dedication and will that the bill was passed in both the houses, observers see a political mover behind the nod to the bill. They claim that the Congress has joined hands with Hazare to neutralise the influence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), in a well-thought-out strategy to alienate it on the political scenario.

End of the agitation: Anna Hazare with supporters Kiran Bedi and former army chief V K Singh at Ralegan Siddhi yesterday, after the anti-graft activist broke his nine-day fast

More importantly, experts also claimed that the timing and duration for this hunger strike was calculated beforehand, as Hazare supporters were confident that the bill would be passed in the Winter session before India faces the general elections. They also alleged that youths who supported Anna during his three agitations joined the AAP, the locus of agitation was deliberately limited to Ralegan Siddhi, as Hazare supporters were unsure of countrywide support.

“Cowering under AAP’s outstanding performance of in the Delhi assembly elections, Congress wanted to suppress the party’s increasing influence, especially among youngsters, who after supporting Anna in the Lokpal bill agitation at Ramlila and Jantar Mantar, later inclined towards AAP founder Arvind Kejriwal,” said senior political scholar Jaidev Dole. He claimed that Anna’s fast in Ralegan was the handiwork of the Congress.

Another political scholar, Dr Prakash Pawar, said, “By passing the Lokpal bill, the Congress killed two birds with one stone, giving credit to Hazare for passing the bill and saving the party’s image, which had been maligned because of its dilly-dallying on the Lokpal bill which has been hanging in Parliament in the last 45 years.”

The city had witnessed a downslide in protests for an effective Jan Lokpal Bill after Hazare’s first hunger strike for it in August 2011, which witnessed a huge following of young protesters. The second protest on December 2011 was on the riverside of Deccan Bridge and it was comparatively low-key. The last protest for Lokpal in the city was held on March 2012, and it completely lost its steam when supporters were nowhere to be seen.

Aide rubbishes claims
Anna’s close aide Vishwambhar Chaudhari, however, rubbished these claims and said that the government had no choice but to pass the bill before the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. He said, “If people are claiming that there was setting between Anna and Union government to pass the bill a decided time, then why would Anna have fasted for nine days? If what these people are claiming were the case, Anna and the Centre would have passed the bill immediately after he went on an indefinite fast.”

Why Anna fans are doing a U-turn
MiD DAY asked a few of Anna Hazare’s former supporters why they were no more standing by him. This is what they had to say. 

My respect for Anna is still intact. But for his supporters like me, there were major difference between Anna’s earlier first protest and the one which was organised in the last nine days. The present Lokpal bill does not include all the provisions that were included in the draft of the Lokpal bill. The amendment can, however, be made at a later stage. - BB Somani, member of Narendra Modi Army, a group of Modi’s followers

The few people who were trying to push for a weak Lokpal bill were finally successful in brining it. The original draft made by the present AAP members was diluted and the bill was passed in a hurry. The government and Anna both compromised and brought a watered down version of the bill. - Rajesh Mittal, Pune coordinator of AAP

Deepak BharadiaI refrained from joining any political party and have kept my work limited to IAC, but I visited Anna in Ralegan Siddhi. Wednesday was a historic day for citizens and if there are any loopholes in the bill, they will be plugged and made better. -Deepak Bharadia, information technologist and India Against Corruption member

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