Rift in Team Anna, as Hazare plans nationwide campaign
A major rift emerged at a Team Anna core committee meeting in suburban Noida Sunday with member Mufti Shamoon Qasmi being asked to stay away from the proceedings after he was reportedly found recording discussions on his mobile phone and transmitting it outside.
Team Anna was discussing the group's future strategies, including their alliance with yoga guru Baba Ramdev, when Qasmi was reportedly found recording the proceedings chaired by Anna Hazare, who has now decided to launch a nationwide campaign from June for a strong Lokpal.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan said that when Qasmi was asked about the recording, as "this was a breach of our trust", he denied any knowledge about the matter.
The recording was "accidental," Bhushan quoted Qasmi as saying. "When we told him to accept his mistake, he got angry. Anna also requested him to exercise restraint, but he stormed out. It has come to our knowledge that he's been speaking rubbish outside," Bhushan told reporters.
The meeting asked him to keep out of the deliberations for some time, he added. Indicating that the wedge had widened, another senior activist from the group, Arvind Kejriwal, said Qasmi had been caught "red-handed" just like Swami Agnivesh, who was found relaying the details of meetings of Team Anna to ministers in the government at the peak of Hazare's fast at Ramlila ground in Delhi last year.
"Just like Swami Agnivesh, he had been caught red-handed," Kejriwal said. Team Anna member Shazia Ilmi too was critical of Qasmi. Ilmi said the team had confronted Qasmi, asking him: "You are a member of the core committee, the discussion is going on and you are recording and relaying it outside.
Further, you are claiming that you are doing this since you are a Muslim? It was a very unethical thing to do and using one's religion to excuse an inexcusable action is even worse." Ilmi said the team had found "three recordings" when they checked Qasmi's phone.
Asked whether Qasmi was expelled from the meeting, Team Anna member Kumar Vishwas said that he was only asked to leave the meeting for some time. "It is his decision to leave the movement or not. We have just asked him not to attend the meeting for some time," he added.
The meet's focus was on the strategy to further pitch for a strong Lokpal law. The meet comes ahead of the parliament meeting again from Tuesday for the second half of this year's budget session after a three-week recess.
After the meeting, Team Anna member Kiran Bedi expressed hope that the country would get a strong Lokpal by the end of the month-long parliament session.
She said the team members had resolved to create awareness about Lokpal in their home states, besides trying to increase the numbers of India Against Corruption (IAC) volunteers.
"Anna will start his countrywide tour by the end of June," she said. The opposition has also demanded passage of the Lokpal bill in this session. About the alliance with yoga guru Baba Ramdev, Bedi claimed that while the two campaigns were independent, Hazare and Ramdev could combine their voices against graft.
"We believe that if the corrupt can come together, then those who oppose them, can also join hands," she said. Earlier, Bhushan said that the committee had also resolved to send notice to and seek clarifications from 16 tainted ministers. After receiving their replies, Team Anna will release the graft evidence and documents to the media, she said.