Anna’s new team wants an old name, says we are India Against Corruption

FP
As Anna Hazare announced a new core team on Saturday, one of its members, Kiran Bedi, made the first move to appropriate the 'India Against Corruption' tag.

In what may stir a controversy with their old associates, Bedi said: "It is they (Arvind Kejriwal and others) who moved out to form a political party. So we remain the IAC. In any case they will have a new name by November 26, so this should not be an issue." Fellow Anna team member Medha Patkar insisted that anybody can take up the IAC name. "There is no cheap political fight here."

Bedi also sought to lay claim to the "revelations" that Team Kejriwal has been making at successive intervals. These exposes, she said, were culled from "information that we had been receiving even while we were together".

The composition of the team itself was no surprise, with former Army chief V K Singh listed as a special invitee. A statement issued subsequently said the core committee had been reconstituted to re-energise the "IAC movement".

Apart from Hazare, Bedi and Patkar, the core committee comprises Justice Santosh Hegde, Arvind Gaur, Akhil Gogoi, Sunita Godara, Avinash Dharmadhikari, Vishwambhar Chaudhary, Shashi Kant, Lt Col Bijender Khokhar, Rakesh Rafiq, Ran Singh Arya, Shivendra Singh Chauhan and Akshay Kumar. Rajinder Singh and P V Rajagopal skipped the meeting.

While Hazare aides claimed that the two had stayed out because they were "in talks with the government on own agitations", Singh contradicted that. "I have always said and I continue to say that I am willing to be part of a team that works in national interest but will not work in a team that is identified by one individual or known by his name. I have said this to them clearly while refusing the invite."

Rajagopal also said: "I did not attend today's meeting because I am travelling. But I am willing to join the team provided it is called Team India and not Team Anna and it broadbases itself to address the issues of the real poor rather than remaining an anti-corruption movement of the middle class. Identification of the movement as Team Anna has hurt it rather than helped it."

The new group will work for setting up a Janlokpal as well as for laws for electoral reforms and also "oppose anti-people policies that leave the country at the mercy of foreign companies, which are taking over our water, land and forests, depriving farmers".

Bulk of the new core team members were part of the old IAC core committee that Hazare disbanded in August, with the notable omission being agriculturist Davender Sharma, who is known to be close to Swami Ramdev. Sharma's name had been there in the original list but, sources said, some members had reservations about his open association with the yoga teacher, particularly given the recurrent corruption allegations against him.

Hazare hinted at a massive expansion soon with 40 more members. While dodging a question about Sharma's exclusion, he said: "I did not want to foist names from above. Now that this committee is in place, members will democratically decide on including new faces. As of now V K Singh will be a special invitee to the core committee. We will have Muslims, tribals and Dalit leaders."

The new team may organise a convention in Delhi later this month and Hazare said that the target is to develop a four-tier system, down to the block level with 40 volunteers. Patkar said the new core committee will attempt to bring people's movements from around the country together. "We will challenge Parliament through people power," she said.

Hazare will start his tour of the country from Bihar in January. On a question about whether he was okay with Kejriwal's political party reaping the benefits of his nationwide anti-corruption movement, Hazare reiterated his promise to campaign for Kejriwal should he fight elections.

The Anna team's new office at Sarvodaya Enclave will be inaugurated on Sunday.

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