Arvind Kejriwal says he will carry Anna Hazare's photograph in his heart, after being told by the 75-year-old activist that he cannot use his picture in his campaigns. The Gandhian activist, who was the face of the anti-corruption movement for almost two years, officially announced the split of Team Anna yesterday and said he refused to support the political ambitions of Mr Kejriwal, once considered his closest aide.
Mr Kejriwal, describing Anna's decision as "shocking, unbelievable, unfortunate and sad," also said today that it was at Anna Hazare's behest that the movement became political. "It was Anna who asked us to conduct a survey on whether to form a political party or not. He chose SMS, internet & social media. Everything is being sold out in the country; coal, shops, retail business etc. So there is a sense of urgency in us to change the system, " he said.
Sources have told NDTV that while Mr Kejriwal has not changed mind about forming a political party, a final decision will be taken based on meetings that are being held today and tomorrow.
"My best wishes are with them...Both of us have chosen separate paths,"Anna had said yesterday, also requesting Mr Kejriwal not to use his photo and name in his campaigns hereafter. Mr Kejriwal said today, "Anna's photograph and name are printed in our hearts. We will continue to take his blessings."
Differences in Team Anna have been obvious for some months now, but the official break came after a nine-hour-long meeting in Delhi on Wednesday, that was often acrimonious, as the senior leaders of India Against Corruption took sides. Anna's supporters allegedly said he had been exploited; the other side said that he had been propped up by leaders from Delhi, Press Trust of India reported.
Immediately after that meeting, Anna was reportedly closeted in a meeting with yoga guru Ramdev at a house in Delhi's Golf Links; former Army Chief General VK Singh is believed to have been present. Sources say that Mr Kejriwal and his supporters are concerned about Anna's meeting with Baba Ramdev. They reportedly feel that Baba Ramdev's proximity to the BJP may draw Anna towards communal forces.
Anna opposes the decision to go political and is backed on this by key members of his movement like Justice Santosh Hegde and former top cop Kiran Bedi. He has made clear that he will not campaign for the party being launched on October 2 by Mr Kejriwal and lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan. He wants to focus his efforts on pressuring the government to introduce a tough new law against graft based on the Lokpal Bill, a legislation that he has lobbied for for over two years, with Mr Kejriwal by his side.
Mr Kejriwal and his associates had released the results of the survey earlier this week and said 76 per cent of the respondents wanted Team Anna to enter politics. Anna has rejected that poll and said that elections require huge funds, which will be tough for the activists to organise without compromising on their values. He also said that it will be difficult to ensure that candidates are not corrupted if they are elected.
With Anna at its forefront and Mr Kejriwal as his right-hand man, the India Against Corruption campaign turned the Lokpal Bill into a national cause last year. Named for the national ombudsman it seeks to create to tackle complaints of venality against public servants, the Bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha but failed to clear the Rajya Sabha in the last Winter session. India was introduced to the Lokpal Bill through large street demonstrations and sit-in camps, many of them held while Anna went on lengthy fasts.
Over the last few months, however, the protests drew thin crowds. At the last session in August, the poor turnout emboldened the government to ignore the protest in Delhi; no effort was made to ask activists like Mr Kejriwal, who was on a hunger strike, to end his fast. After six days, with poor response, Mr Kejriwal said that the need of the hour appeared to be forming a political alternative. Anna immediately said he would not contest elections or join any party, but said he would support the new front. In the last few days, he has distanced himself completely from Mr Kejriwal's plans.(With PTI inputs)