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Spat over Anna's fast: Hegde, Agnivesh vs others

Last updated on: August 26, 2011 22:57 IST

Spat over Anna's fast: Hegde, Agnivesh vs others

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Sahim Salim and Toral Varia in New Delhi
As Anna Hazare's fast entered Day 11 on Friday, the split in his team widened. It's now Swami Agnivesh and Justice Hegde versus the rest! The duo feel that Hazare should have called off the fast on Thursday and that protesting out the prime minister's residence was uncalled for.

It's official: There's a split in Team Anna. Hazare's core team has virtually been divided into two, with one opining that it was high time that the Gandhian called of his fast. They also felt that not responding to the government's gesture to discuss the Lokpal Bill in Parliament has put the Congress on the back foot, thus hurting their cause.

However, the other side feels that it was necessary for Hazare to continue his fast and maintain a rigid stand. Former Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde and social activist Swami Agnivesh strongly disapproved of Team Anna's tactics of gheraoing residences of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, an idea believed to be propagated by actor Aamir Khan.

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Image: RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, Anna Hazare, former IPS officer Kiran Bedi and social activist Swami Agnivesh

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Agnivesh, Hegde distancing themselves from Anna

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Speaking to rediff.com, a close aide of the Gandhian said that some members felt that the 73-year-old was being "rigid and undemocratic". Members of Hazare's core team -- Agnivesh and Hegde -- are slowly distancing themselves from the anti-corruption crusader saying that backed by some of his aides, he is indulging in "uncalled for tactics."

"I am also a member of the core committee, but I would prefer to keep silent for the time being because at this moment the campaign is at its peak. I am hurt, so I thought the best way is to participate in the movement from a distance. What is important now is the movement and not my feelings," Agnivesh told rediff.com.

Another Hazare aide, who wished to remain anonymous, said that Hegde and Agnivesh have not been in touch with the Gandhian and his team ever since the prime minister's speech in the Parliament on Thursday.


Image: Hazare with Swami Agnivesh

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'Kejriwal not keen on contacting Agnivesh'

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Agnivesh agreed that he has not been in touch with Team Anna for the past three days. And other members of the team, especially Right to Information activist Arvind Kejriwal, was not very keen in contacting Agnivesh and Hegde because of the growing differences among them.

"While Kejriwal and some others in the team feel that the fast should not be called off because it was the only tactic that the government was responding to, others felt that not doing so would be interpreted as an insult to the government. Agnivesh and Hegde have also shown concern about Anna's deteriorating health. There have been several discussions over this within the team," a source from the core group side.

Image: RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal

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Holding dharna outside PM's house not right: Agnivesh

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"Anna's team should have advised him to end his fast as the government had acceded to his demands. I thought that Thursday afternoon was a golden opportunity to break the fast and yet continue the agitation. Breaking the fast would have been an act of reciprocation to the government, the prime minister and the Parliament. What the PM and all the parties did unanimously is the greatest appeal that any nation can offer to an individual," Agnivesh said.

"The PM made a historic appeal to Anna in the Parliament. To actually protest and hold dharna outside his house was not right. That stir should have been called off," he added.

A source from Team Anna said that some members felt Thursday's agitation would actually hurt the campaign.

"Some members felt that after the PM made an appeal in the Parliament, going ahead and actually gheraoing his house would be seen as a sign of defiance. In my view, they were partially right because today, the government has again become rigid in their stand. The Congress had made some reconciliatory gestures with spokesperson Manish Tewari apologising and the PM appealing in the Lok Sabha," he said.

"Till Thursday night, we looked like we had the upper hand, but again the government seems to have taken a few step backwards. Some members feel this is because of Anna's harshly worded response following PM's appeal and its subsequent backing from Medha Patkar," he added.


Image: Police try to stop supporters of Hazare from marching towards the residence of Dr Singh in New Delhi
Photographs: Reuters
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Public should decide when Anna should end fast: Hedge

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Hegde also felt that Anna was behaving undemocratically by telling Parliament what to do.

Anna's aide, who wished to remain anonymous, said that while former Indian Police Service officer Kiran Bedi was concerned about Hazare's health and largely remained neutral, Kejriwal and social activist Medha Patkar wanted him to continue his fast so that the movement will reach its "logical end".

"Anna is fighting for a good cause, but he is being used by some members of the team. I am hurt because of this. They are being quite disrespectful. Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal are quite close to Anna and are influencing his decisions," Agnivesh said.

"Annaji is only a symbol, like a mascot. Therefore, the people should decide how long his fast should go on because it is a people's movement. The fast should have ended on Thursday when the Parliament rose in unison and appealed to Annaji. Not just that, they also conceded to his main demand of introducing the Jan Lokpal in the parliament and debating on it," he added.

 


Image: Justice Santosh Hegde

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