Hazare losing battleground to former deputy


When Anna Hazare derided crowds and talked about a grassroots anti-corruption movement of the people, it was not just a case of sour grapes. He was in effect repealing his own argument during the 16-month-long Lokpal agitation that milling crowds at Jantar Mantar are the validation of the "movement", shaking the very foundations of not just Arvind Kejriwal's public profile but his own as well.

If the anti-corruption movement is principally about grabbing eyeballs, Hazare has clearly lost out to his erstwhile "chief of staff" not just on the OB vans count but even on headcount. The turnout of 60-odd volunteers at the Tuesday meeting was a far cry from the 200 strong gathering that had hung on to each word from the Lokpal cynosure in the first such meeting. Many even in his immediate circle believe it is a certain pointer that Hazare has ceded anti-corruption battleground to Arvind Kejriwal, largely because of a lack of clear strategy about how to take the movement forward.

Almost three months after his exit from Team Lokpal, Hazare is yet to spell out any goals of the movement for which he is soliciting dedication and patience from volunteers. He may have appropriated the IAC name but he scarcely speaks the language of the typical IAC votary youth and the net-savvy.

There are already murmurs of discord in his team. Hazare's blink-and-you-miss-it appearance at the protest demonstration in front of Madhya Pradesh Bhavan against the arrest of Medha Patkar had been a bone of contention between the left and right leaning elements among his aides. The septuagenarian kept the excursion brief and returned to his afternoon siesta at Maharashtra Sadan.

Pulled in different directions the motley group that he has now put together, many of them like Medha Patkar and Akhil Gogoi with their own full-time commitments in their respective spheres of activity, and faced with the challenge of keeping the group together, Hazare may find the task of taking the nuts and bolts decisions about his new national movement increasingly daunting. There are already ruffled egos with two former core committee members expressing reservations about the Team Anna nomenclature and the largely middle class constituency.

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