TAKING ‘Team Anna’ by surprise,Anna Hazare today came together with yoga guru Ramdev on a public platform and announced a mass movement starting May 1 followed by a joint fast on June 3 at Jantar Mantar against “corruption and black money”. Jan Lokpal seems to have been put on the backburner as Hazare spoke of Lokayukta in Maharashtra as his first priority.
Though the social activist was in Delhi to attend a core committee meeting of the India Against Corruption on Sunday,he had arranged a meeting with Ramdev beforehand. The latter had reportedly sent an emissary to Ralegan Siddhi for the appointment,with the IAC and its core committee kept in the dark.
While Hazare had talked of cooperation with Ramdev at his Jantar Mantar fast in March,making it formal appeared Ramdev’s idea. The yoga guru looked in control at the press meet,steering Hazare through the questions and also when to call an end to it. The two vowed that they had been together and would always be together “all our lives”. Hazare said he planned to visit different parts of the country to bring people together till the elections in 2014.
Sources in the core committee accused Ramdev of both planning the press meet and going to great lengths to keep it under wraps till the last minute. The issue is likely to rock Sunday’s meeting,with a powerful section within the IAC opposed to any alliance with Ramdev.
Ramdev and Hazare held a long meeting at Gurgaon today,after which they announced that they would together rally across the country for the Jan Lokpal Bill and for getting back black money.
While there have been reports of Ramdev and Team Anna differing over the inclusion of the prime minister and chief justice of India under the ambit of the Lokpal Bill — with Ramdev opposing the same — there was only bonhomie between the yoga guru and the activist today.
All smiles,the two hugged each other in a show of solidarity with each other and said they have been and will be together all their lives.
Hazare would be visiting each of the 35 districts in Maharashtra and address gatherings asking people to come together on the Lokayukta and against black money. He reckons that if the Lokayukta is cleared in Congress-ruled Maharashtra,it would clear way for a similar legislation at the Centre.
Ramdev will kickstart his movement from Durg,Chhattisgarh,on May 1 and go on to visit parts of Haryana,Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Post August,the two will visit different parts of the country — sometimes together and sometimes separately. “The people have now woken up and we will try to bring them together. The government only fears that they have to do what people demand. Otherwise they do not fear anything else,” Hazare said.
Asked about absence of Team Anna from the press meet,Ramdev joked that they were busy preparing a file of corruption cases against ministers. He also dismissed concerns for Hazare’s health during the planned fast,saying the activist had been doing yoga for a long time now.
The cosying-up couldn’t have gladdened Team Anna’s heart,particularly because of the cooling-off between the IAC and the social activist since the aborted Mumbai fast in December last year.
Today morning,as Hazare arrived from Ralegan Siddhi,he was received by Ramdev’s aides and headed straight to Gurgaon to meet him. The invites for the press conference had gone out in Ramdev’s name and till a few minutes before it started,the IAC had no idea of the same.
Fissures within the core committee on Ramdev had first come to the fore in January when core commitee member Kumar Vishwas had said that Anna should join the yoga guru as a partner in his fight against corruption rather than sparring,given that their goals were the same. Immediately,fellow core committee member Arvind Kejriwal had issued a statement clarifying that it was Vishwas’s personal opinion.
On Friday,Vishwas said: “I stand vindicated. The team needs to understand that they are not the repository of all goodness.” Kejriwal was not available for comment.
IAC members are unsure of backing Ramdev because of allegations against his Patanjali Yogpeeth as well as his aide Acharya Balkrishnan and the saffron tag attached to him.
“It is Ramdev who has been very eager for a formal alliance during the past month or so. He may apprehend more allegations against his trusts now that there is a Congress government in Uttarakhand. In fact the emissary he sent to Anna in Ralegan had said that he wants to meet him for something personal. During the meeting he seems to have sprung the surprise of a joint address,” said an IAC source.