‘Everyone makes mistakes,we too did… it will be a new campaign but we can’t plan it all’

It’s been a year since Anna Hazare launched his campaign with a fast at Jantar Mantar. At Ralegan Siddhi,he reflects on that year and looks ahead in this interview to Sunanda Mehta

Written by Sunanda Mehta | Published: April 5, 2012 12:44 am

What is the biggest lesson from the year since the April 5 fast?

The one good thing is the awareness created among the people without spending the crores that would otherwise be required for such an education and awakening. The issue of corruption has found a place in everyone’s hearts. The country’s youth has awakened,not because of Anna Hazare,but because of a greater force above.

Any disappointment,something you expected to happen but didn’t?

What I’m doing is my karma; I’m doing it with no expectations. Where is the question of disappointment?

After the success in Delhi,were you disappointed about Mumbai?

The country was misled about Mumbai. Pictures were taken at a lean hour at the spots where few people were sitting and these were then splashed all over. We have our own pictures that show huge crowds.

Then why this feeling that your movement has lost its momentum?

Because I fell ill for about four-and-a-half months and was not able to go and lift the movement to the level I could have. Parties interpreted this as a slowdown of the movement.

Arvind Kejriwal asked the public for ways to take the movement forward. Did this amount to Team Anna not knowing the way ahead?

Why Arvind? I too blogged that we’d like the public to suggest what more we can do. We were ready to adopt a way suggested by the public if we found that viable or if anyone pointed out a fault in our methods. There is a public of 1.25 crore out there with much more knowledge than Team Anna has. We know about corruption,about Lokpal,but we are not gyanis on a lot of other issues.

Did allegations against Team Anna members add to the impression of a dilution in the movement?

If so,then Janatar Mantar would not have got the response it did in March. All allegations were part of a conspiracy. We don’t have the exact figure but we know crores were spent to break our team. But we remained united because we are clean. Whenever we felt an allegation against any team member deserved our attention,we would thrash out the issues. Once all doubts were cleared and we were convinced that there has been no wrongdoing,we were ready to take on any allegations.

What is your plan now to take the movement forward?

We have decided to stay quiet till May. If the government doesn’t bring this bill,I will embark on a tour of the country and tell the people how they are being duped. We will use the next year-and-a-half to awaken the people,and by the time of the elections we will have raised our pitch to a high. Till now the government is not scared because there are no elections. But our efforts will bear fruit in 2014,then everything will depend on bringing the bill,laana padega ya jaane padega… Our andolan will again be on Ramlila Maidan. In 2014 I will again do an anshan…

You have promised to supportSwami Ramdev in his June movement. Are there any issues on which you will not support him?

We are supporting him on his demand that black money stacked abroad be brought back,and on the Jan Lokpal bill. Last time we did not share a common platform over issues of secularism. But now on the issue of corruption we are together.

You have spoken about the impact of your campaign on elections.

The fight we started has made an impact… People have realised it is not the government’s intention to bring in the law,and this was evident in the results. Initially we took up Hisar and told the people not to vote for the Congress because they are not in favour of the Jan Lokpal Bill. What was the result? The Congress lost. We had named a party to prove a point,otherwise we do not differentiate between politicians on the basis of party. So we then decided not to name any party,just say don’t vote for those opposing Lokpal. Our people campaigned like this in Goa,UP,Uttarakhand and had a very good response.

Kejriwal has made allegations against 14 ministers. Why now?

At the last meeting in Jantar Mantar,Arvind told me about the cases against them. When I was asked to comment,my response was that if those named feel he is wrong,why don’t they order an inquiry? If we are wrong we will take the punishment,if not then punish those named.

There are allegations against Kejriwal himself. The Himachal Pradesh government cancelled an appointment because he called its Lokayukta Bill weak. He has been criticised for calling MPs names.

The allegations are only to be expected. If the Himachal government has brought in a weak bill,he is right in criticising it. In calling MPs names,he has the support of the people.

What is your view on the BJP,on Narendra Modi?

All parties are partisan. The people Arvind named belong to all parties… Modi is from the BJP,isn’t he,so what can I say different about him?

What about Sonia Gandhi,Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh?

I don’t want to name anyone but in politics people are drunk with power and money and have forgotten all else. This is not a question limited to one Sonia or one Rahul,the entire government does not have the right intention as far as the Jan Lokpal Bill is concerned. Manmohan Singh is a straight man but what can he do?

Why didn’t Rahul’s UP efforts work?

The Jan Lokpal Bill was a big cause for their debacle. Rahul is young and has lots of energy,but when you have to work for the country you cannot get publicly angry. The flashes of anger that he showed were damaging for him. But it’s important for him to not brood over this and learn from past mistakes.

Are there any past mistakes Team Anna would like to learn from?

Everyone makes mistakes. We too did but they were not big blunders. Now it will be a whole new campaign but we cannot plan it all. We will have to develop it as it happens.

What do you think of the Army chief’s revelations?

I have not met Gen Singh but he is a good man,trying to expose the corruption in the defence ministry.

How is your health now?

It’s perfectly fine. The 12-day fast had weakened me. After that I took lots of medicines which made my health worse. That’s the problem with allopathy,it cures one thing but complicates others. So I went to a naturopathy institute in Bangalore. I was made to walk 4km every morning,3km every evening. There were mud baths,massages,just on the lines prescribed by Gandhiji. I lost 5½ kg in three weeks and am again very strong inside. I am ready for the fight. I have continued 3km walks and eat only fruits for breakfast and have just 2-3 chapatis for lunch. Now there is no question of my falling ill.

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