‘I will support Kejriwal if he fields honest candidates in 2014’

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The onslaught on the environment and corruption are the biggest threats facing the nation, but things can change if honest people work both within the system and outside it, says Anna Hazare.

EDITED EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW

Anna Hazare, 72, Social Activist
Photo: Sarang Sena

When younger leaders showed no initiative, you took charge of the anti-corruption movement and led it like a 17-year-old. Where do you get this enthusiasm from?
That’s not true, the youth are this country’s assets. In 2011, thousands of them took to the streets. That encouraged us. The government betrayed us on its promise of the Lokpal. But it will have to pass the Bill before the 2014 General Election, or else give up power. We need to continue the struggle for the empowerment of gram sabhas, and for the ‘right to reject’ and the ‘right to recall’. It will take at least 10-15 more years of struggle to rein in corruption.

One of your key aides has now parted ways. Has this affected your movement?
We have taken two different paths to the same destination. We need more people with strong character and conviction in Parliament. I’ve told Arvind that if he fields honest candidates in 2014, I will support them.

How do you see your movement going forward? What kind of people would you include in your core committee?
Starting 30 January, we will tour the country to mobilise common Indians to put pressure on the government for Lokpal. A hundred officials from the army, nine IAS and seven IPS officers have expressed their willingness to join us. Once we identify potential leaders, we will announce the core committee.

Why do you loathe politics so much?
Entering politics is not a crime, but I lament the fact that politics in India lacks a social perspective; its main thesis is ‘paise se satta, aur satte se paisa’ (money for power, and power for money).

But if you don’t enter politics, how will you ensure a cleaner system?
That is why I sent Arvind. If we can put pressure on the government, both from outside the system and within it, the dirt will give way to cleaner politics.

It is being said that Gen (retd) VK Singh will take on Arvind’s role in future agitations?
Indeed. I will tour the country with General Singh.

But there are more pressing issues than corruption that need attention.
The onslaught on nature, aided by corruption, is the biggest threat. Our mineral wealth, forests and water are up for sale to foreign corporations. The PM believes this nation will not progress without foreign investment. Mahatma Gandhi had said that if the economy of this country needs a boost, its village economy should be revitalised. I, too, have worked for the development of villages, but without a single rupee from foreign donors, or destroying the environment. Instead, we took whatever nature had to give us, recharged groundwater with rainwater harvesting and encouraged mixed farming. Since our intervention, once hungry villages are now exporting their excess crops to other countries.

It’s alleged that you work hand-in-glove with the RSS.
These allegations don’t bother me. The tree that bears fruits also has to bear the stones thrown at it.

Are political leaders scared of campaigning in your area?
I don’t discourage them, but I don’t endorse them either.

Atul Chaurasia is Chief of Bureau, Tehelka Hindi.
atul@tehelka.com

Sanjay Dubey is Executive Editor, Tehelka Hindi.
sanjay@tehelka.com

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