‘If there are any RSS people on stage, Anna won’t go’

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Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan tells Revati Laul that Mufti Qazmi’s removal has not caused any rift in the movement

Prashant Bhushan
Prashant Bhushan, Photo: Shailendra Pandey

Why are Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev sitting on a joint one-day fast in Delhi on 3 June?
Anna feels that we should support Ramdev’s movement against black money, just as his supporters are with us in our movement against corruption. So he has agreed to hold a joint fast on 3 June. But that does not mean we have any kind of alliance or joint campaign with Baba Ramdev.

Questions have been raised over Baba Ramdev’s empire. How does he then find place in your crusade against corruption?
If there is any concrete evidence that shows that there is corruption, the government is free to prosecute him.

Do you always need to wait for proof in such instances?
Not proof, but at least some concrete evidence. If the government shows us evidence that is credible, we will reconsider our stance.

So Team Anna’s stance for now is that you will not question the source of Baba Ramdev’s wealth?
Baba Ramdev says that his wealth is from donations.

Last April, Baba Ramdev and Anna fell apart when Ramdev invited RSS leader Ram Madhav onto the stage to speak. Will Ramdev again do something similar?
This issue has been made clear to Baba Ramdev. He has assured us that there won’t be any RSS or communal people on his stage. If there are, then Anna will not be there.

Has Ramdev’s presence caused further rift within the team, especially after team member Mufti Qazmi’s removal?
Mufti Qazmi’s removal has got nothing to do with Anna sharing the stage with Baba Ramdev, and it has not caused any rifts, but there are differences of opinion within the core group.

Then why was Mufti Qazmi expelled?
We suspected Qazmi of leaking to the media the details of our meetings. On 22 April, when we found him recording our discussions on his mobile phone and transmitting it to the media, we asked him to leave.

What’s wrong with taping the proceedings?
We are preparing a strategy against corrupt people and we don’t want them to know of our plans beforehand. It would then defeat our purpose.

Isn’t this double-speak, as on one hand, you are asking for transparency with the Lokpal and for those proceedings to be recorded on camera, and on the other, you expelled Qazmi for taping your proceedings?
There is a difference between the proceedings of a public authority, which is discussing a public issue, and the discussions of an organisation like India Against Corruption on a strategy to expose corrupt forces. If they know our strategy in advance, it would simply weaken our plan.

Last year, the team’s campaign was for an urgent need to pass the Lokpal Bill and now the deadline has shifted to 2014? Why?
Despite the public opinion in our favour, the government, Parliament and political parties were not willing to bring in the kind of Bill we wanted. We needed to have a strategy that can have some impact on the elections.

Did December 2011 have anything to do with it?
Not at all. Once it became clear that these people are not going to relent, whatever the public pressure, then you have to re-think your strategy.

Revati Laul is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.
revati@tehelka.com

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Special Correspondent

Revati Laul has been a television journalist and documentary film maker for most of her 16 year career. Ten of those were spent in NDTV where her reports included everything from the aftermath of the Gujarat riots to following truck drivers into ULFA infested Assam. Then about a year and a half ago, she decided to tell her stories in indelible ink instead. Most people said she made an upside down decision but she firmly believes she’s found food for the soul. She was hired by Tehelka to write on politics. For her this does not mean tracking the big fish but looking closely at how the tiny fish are getting swallowed and by whom. On most days though, she can be found conversing on her other two favourite subjects – fornication and food. Fiction is another friend of hers. A short story she wrote called `Drool’ was published in an anthology of young fiction by Zubaan. She is also founder member of the NGO ‘Tara’ that looks after underpriviledged children.

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