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"Obsession to become PM has gone into Kejriwal's head"

 

Anna Hazare Exclusive interview by TSI’s Chandran Iyer
CHANDRAN IYER | Issue Dated: March 23, 2014, New Delhi
Tags : Anna Hazare | Arvind Kejriwal | AAP | Lokpal Movemen | Ramlila Maidan | IAC |
 

Anna Hazare is a man who believes in calling a spade a spade.  Unlike  many political leaders who either clam their mouth shut when asked uncomfortable questions, Hazare is a man who does not mince any words or hide under the shell  of “no comments” or “I do not want to talk about the issue”. But while doing so, he never loses his cool even when asked inconvenient questions.

This soldier-turned activist cum anti-corruption crusader has been in the forefront of different agitations since the last four decades. He says, “I have taken six wickets.” He is proudly referring to his crusade against corruption in Maharashtra, where six Maharashtra ministers had to resign because of his exposes.

The credit for transforming a barren village Ralegaon Siddhi into a model village goes to Hazare. At one point of time, the village was reeling under drought, poverty, debt and unemployment. But it was Hazare who changed the whole picture by mobilizing people.

Some say he did it with brute force. Irrespective, today, Ralegaon Siddhi is being taken as a role model for other villages by the Maharashtra government and by other states too. Massive tree plantations have been undertaken, and hills have been terraced to check erosion. Large canals with ridges on either side have been dug to retain rainwater. As a result, the water table in this area is now considerably higher and wells and tube wells are never dry, making it possible to irrigate year long.

The credit for making Arvind Kejriwal ride the crest of popularity wave goes to this 86 year old man.    It was during the Lokpal Movement that Kejriwal became a force to reckon with, when he formed India Against Corruption (IAC) with Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan, among others.

An initial protest early 2011 at Jantar Mantar in the heart of Delhi was followed by a 12-day fast by Hazare at Ramlila Maidan demanding a Jan Lokpal bill to fight corruption embedded in the Indian society. As hundreds of thousands packed the sprawling ground in support, and solidarity for the protests erupted across the country, the government was forced to at least philosophically accept Hazare’s demands.

While Hazare went back to his village in Maharashtra, Kejriwal kept up the tempo, branching off from the India Against Corruption (IAC) outfit to form the AAP in November 2012.

Anna calls himself a Fakir as he has no family, property or bank balance. He lives in a 10x10 feet Spartan room. He has not visited his home for around 35 years, as he has devoted his whole time for the welfare of the country.

Anna was born on 15th June 1937 in Bhingar, a small village in Maharashtra. He was brought up by his childless aunt. He studied till the 7th standard and later decided to get employed in Mumbai because of the economic situation in the household. He started selling flowers in Dadar and later owned his own shop.

TSI met up with this man and tried to understand various facets of his life, and of course, what went wrong with Arvind Kejriwal.

Your decision to give support to Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerji has come as a complete surprise to the people. What prompted you to endorse her as a likely Prime Ministerial candidate?

I gave a 17 point agenda to all the political parties which included village-centric social and economic initiatives, reforms in our taxation system, passing of Lokpal, Citizens’ Charters and Whistleblowers’ Bill, recognising Gram Sabhas as the basic administrative unit, power stations in every village, revamping of agricultural policy, declaring black money in foreign banks as national priority, a new tax policy, containing inflation and proposals such as boosting vocational education and stricter laws against corruption etc. If these points are included in the agenda, then it will change the scenario of our country. But strangely, barring Mamata Banerjee, not a single party bothered to respond. She gave me the firm assurance that if she comes to power, then she would see to it that all the 17 points will be implemented. Another thing that I liked about her is the fact that even though she is the Chief Minister, she is an utterly simple person. Unlike other politicians, she is not enamoured by the perks of office She is an epitome of simplicity who stays in a 10x15 feet home. She still wears slippers and simple saris. She doesn’t avail of an (official) car and takes no salary. She offers a ray of hope; and if people stand by her, then the country will change in no time. Only such selfless people should qualify to be the Prime Minister of our country.

But earlier you had never supported any political party. How do you justify then this sudden change of mind when it came to Mamata’s party?

The support is not for the party that she belongs to but I am supporting her for the ideas she has for our society and for this country. Others in her party will get my support on individual merits. If they have a clean public image, then they will have my support. Candidates having adverse police records or questionable characters will not be favoured.

Why did you not think of supporting Arvind Kejriwal? After all, he was your protégé and he used to say that you are his mentor?

I had handed over a 17-point agenda letter to Kejriwal four months back. Last time when he came to meet me, I told him that I would support him if he agrees to it. He said I did not get the 17 points agenda. So I hand delivered the 17 points to him. But till date, neither Kejriwal nor his party has given me any assurance on it.

That is strange, isn’t it? When your agitation was at its peak, he was often seen next to you. In fact, the entire credit for his political rise goes to you.

(Laughs) When the obsession for a chair goes into someone’s head, then principles go for a toss. I used to think that Arvind was a “tyagi”, a selfless man who thinks about the society and the country before self. But now, he is obsessed with only one thing – how to become a Prime Minister. It is now very clear that AAP and Kejriwal are thinking of power more, than of the nation. All the politicians are tarred with the same brush.

But Kejriwal continues to mention publicly and in the media that you are his Guru, philosopher, mentor and a father-figure to him. How do you see him from your perception?

Well, what can I say? After he became the Chief Minister of Delhi, he did not even bother to phone me. Calling me a guru, philosopher and mentor publicly is only to draw electoral mileage from me. He has used me to extract political mileage and continues to do so.

How do you see Kejriwal’s resignation from the post of Delhi CM on the issue of Jan Lokpal bill. Do you think it was the right move?

It was a totally ill-conceived and a hasty decision. He should have used the power to change the face of New Delhi and make it a model for others. He should have thought of contesting the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 after he delivered the results in New Delhi. Once people see the results in New Delhi, then people would be receptive to him. But the greed to become the Prime Minister overshadowed his judgement. What was the need for resigning on the issue of Jan Lokpal Bill? He could have brought in the changes by remaining in power.

How do you view the agitations of AAP? Do you think it is reflective of their commitment for a cause or are they playing to the gallery to remain in headlines?

 This is the result of obsession for power. Service should be the goal and not power. When the latter becomes the prime objective, then service takes a back seat and erosion of values start. This is what has happened in the case of AAP.

If Kejariwal agrees to implement your 17 point agenda, would you still considering supporting him?

Why not? Just as I extended my support to Mamata, I can also extend him my support. But the ball is in Kejriwal’s court. I see this 2014 election as a turning point. It is a good opportunity to throw the bad people out. Corruption, goondaism and terrorism have grown beyond proportions and crossed the threshold of tolerance. People are finding it difficult to live with. Fed up with successive corrupt governments since the last six decades, they are now hankering for a change.

So have you taken any initiative from your side to convince Kejriwal and to make him see reason? Have you advised him not to be hasty in his decisions?

Of course, I did advise him. I told him to go slow and steady as it will yield better results. Acting in haste will be detrimental in the long run. I also asked him whether it was necessary to resort to Rasta Roko agitation outside Rail Bhavan and inconvenience people? It was terrible to see a Chief minister along with cabinet colleagues resorting to such a strike. Inconveniencing other people to achieve a purpose goes against the tenets of any satyagraha. How can a Chief Minister and his cabinet colleagues trouble people by blocking roads and rail traffic? He heard what I said but does what he wants. The trouble with Kejriwal is that he does not know the difference between political activism and political governance

These days, Kejriwal is busy criticizing Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi and industrial bigwigs for the sorry state of the country. What is your take?

When a person points out one finger on others, he should remember that three fingers are pointing towards oneself.

What is the alternative before the country? If all the political leaders are tarred with the same brush then what should the people do?

The situation unfortunately today is gloomy. Whether Modi becomes the prime minister or Rahul Gandhi, I don’t think there will be any qualitative change. All we as citizens can do is to see that good people come to power irrespective of the party to which they belong to. It is our misfortune that many criminals who should be languishing in the prisons are MLAs and MPs.

But that is a very pessimistic view of things. Can’t the people of this country do something about it?

They can. By ensuring that only candidates who are clean, selfless, motivated and service-oriented people are elected. For this, what is needed is massive voter awareness. When that happens, things will definitely change for the better.
 

The retired army Chief General VK Singh and Kiran Bedi had both once pledged support to you. Now Singh has joined BJP and Bedi may also follow suit. How do you see these developments?

I wish them all the best. In my opinion, it augurs well for the country when good people enter political parties. Good people can counterbalance the bad elements.

 

But in case they contest elections on the BJP ticket, will you go to campaign for Singh and Bedi like the way you have promised for Mamata Banerjee?

No. I supported Mamata Banerjee as a person and not as the leader of Trinamool Congress. Besides, I will support only those people who have a track record of serving people politically.

Your comments on India’s two main Prime ministerial candidates Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi...

Rahul Gandhi lacks political maturity. He has a long way ahead. He is a greenhorn. Narendra Modi has experience but his open market policy is not suitable for India.

What is your agenda now?

Creating awareness among the people by travelling to every nook and corner of the country. If people manage to get 200 good people elected in Parliament, then it will be a turning point in our country’s history.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017