AFTER A brief lull, Anna Hazare & Co are back on the big stage. On 25 July, some members of Team Anna began fasting at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi demanding an independent probe into the allegations of corruption against 15 ministers of the UPA government. As questions are raised about the latest leg of the agitation, Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan tells Prakhar Jain that there is no dissent within the team.
EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW
Earlier, the demand was just for the Jan Lokpal Bill. Now, it is for the Special Investigation Team and the focus is on the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Has the goalpost changed?
Yes, the goalpost has changed. Of course, we do want a Lokpal and this agitation underlines the need for a Lokpal. We do understand that the government will not bring the Lokpal immediately.
Is there an understanding in Team Anna that the Lokpal Bill won’t be brought right away?
We need an investigation agency for probing the corruption charges against 15 ministers because it is very important for the survival of the country. Without the removal of these ministers, we won’t get the Lokpal.
Are they the same ministers who introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha and then pushed it forward to an extent?
The Lokpal Bill they introduced was to protect corrupt public servants.
This time Arvind Kejriwal has assumed a bigger position. It is also being said that what Anna Hazare says is being largely managed by him. How do you see this?
Kejriwal has been the architect of this movement from the very beginning and has always played a big role. This time, we asked Anna not to sit for the fast because of his health, but he is insisting on fasting after four days. Have other NGOs and civil society members such as the NCPRI and Aruna Roy been taken into confidence? We have not gone and met every NGO but we are trying to convey our message. It’s not that we have to work together, but we will see that we have their support.
In the past six months after the Lokpal Bill was presented in the Lok Sabha, the criticism against the government hasn’t been too strong. Are you going soft on the UPA?
We have already expressed a strong criticism of the government (by saying) that they have 15 corrupt ministers. We have raised the issue of corruption in the government.
Is too much of media attention killing the interest and enthusiasm for the Lokpal among the people? Do you think that it would affect the turnout?
I don’t think so. People are gradually realising that the government is not going to bring in the Lokpal if they can help it. People have realised that if they don’t do anything, if they don’t stand up and if they don’t take things in their own hands, the country is headed for disaster.
If you have to sum it up: what has been your learning from the past year and how are you doing things differently this year for the Lokpal to be a reality?
What we are saying differently now is that the bulk of the Cabinet is corrupt. I’m definitely saying that and, therefore, this underlines the need for a Lokpal. That’s why the government is not willing to bring in a strong Lokpal.
But the same can be said about Team Anna. Earlier, there was a select committee and now there is a core committee where decision-making is restricted to only a few members. Isn’t that why many members are leaving?
Not many members. Only a few members. The initiative is always taken by a few members and thereafter the core committee decides on it. There is no dissent in the team.
What is Baba Ramdev’s association with the movement?
We have said this movement supports the campaign against black money. Baba Ramdev also supports the cause of the Jan Lokpal.
Prakhar Jain is a Correspondent with Tehelka.