Archive for the ‘Feature’ Category

Team Anna’s transformation into Team B of the BJP is complete

In Feature on February 13, 2012 at 2:07 pm

From: Open Magazine, 11 February 2012

BJP’s Team B
The mask is off. Team Anna and his lieutenants are batting for the BJP

by Dhirendra K Jha

On 30 October last year, when Mohan Bhagwat claimed that Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement was actually supported by the RSS, the remark conveyed palpable nervousness and attracted criticism from Team Anna. Three months later, as Team Anna launches its voters’ awareness campaign in UP, there is not even an attempt to keep its secular mask intact.

The mask, in fact, fell off at the very first stop that Team Anna made in the state to remind prospective voters of their duties in the upcoming Assembly polls. It happened on 2 February at Fatehpur subdivision of Barabanki district, the spot that marked the beginning of the voters’ awareness campaign in the state by the lieutenants of Anna Hazare, and repeated itself through much of the first leg—four rallies, the last on the evening of 3 February at Basti—of Team Anna’s campaign. Kiran Bedi led Team Anna through this leg of the campaign, and the dais was set directly, in three out of four places, by the RSS.

To begin with, the public meeting at Fatehpur was a typical RSS show. Rakesh Kumar Premil, the man who led the local group organising the entire event, has been a prominent member of the local unit of the Sangh Parivar. “Hindus must be aroused to fight against corruption,” he told Open. Premil is known in Fatehpur for his aggressive Hindutva ideology. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, he was president of the Shiv Sena’s Fatehpur unit. Later, he formed an NGO, Manav Utkarsha Sewa Sansthan, and started working under this banner. The banners of this NGO were prominent at the Mahadev Talab ground, where Kiran Bedi, Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh, Gopal Rai and some other members of Team Anna addressed their first public meeting. Ably assisting Premil was Ram Kumar Yadav, a local quack who is also the president of the Fatehpur unit of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, the farmers’ wing of the RSS.

According to Premil, about 50 volunteers from outfits like the Manav Utkarsha Sewa Sansthan, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh and Rashtra Bhakta Vichar Manch, with known if not professed leanings towards the RSS, worked day and night for almost a week to make this event a success. Some of the volunteers, who had come all the way from Agra, belonged to Jai Kali Kalyan Samiti, another NGO with professed Hindutva leanings. No less significant was the role played by teachers and students—they were present in numbers to swell the crowds—of various branches of Saraswati Shishu Mandir, schools run directly by the RSS in and around Fatehpur, as well as those controlled by Sangh sympathisers, including Sai Usha Montessori High School, Glorious Public School and Rabindranath Tagore Senior Secondary School.

If the RSS set the stage at Fatehpur and gathered the crowds, the speakers of Team Anna did the rest. Though members of the Team asserted that they had not come to tell voters who they should vote for, their categorical attack on “corruption” in the Congress, “criminalisation” of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and “misgovernance” by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and high praise for the BJP government in Uttarakhand for bringing in a “really strong Lokayukta Bill” in the state left no doubt in the minds of listeners who they were being asked to vote to the new UP Assembly.

Also, while members of Team Anna spoke, their volunteers distributed a leaflet—containing a 13-point ‘letter of oath’—to prospective voters. The ‘letter’ is an exhortation to the electorate to obtain 13 pledges from the contesting candidate before committing their vote. The first pledge in the ‘letter of oath’, quoting Swami Vivekanand, invokes an idea of India that today only the RSS will endorse: ‘…that I am a citizen of India and every citizen is my brother. Indians are my life and Indian gods and goddesses my divinities. India and its society are the swing of my childhood, the garden of my youth, my sacred heaven and the Kashi of my old age. The soil of India is my highest heaven. My welfare lies in the welfare of India. And this whole life I will chant, day and night—O, Gaurinath, O, Jagdambe, make me more humane and take away my weaknesses and unmanliness.’ It is inconceivable for a non-Hindu to take this oath.

The remaining 12 points in the ‘letter of oath’ are no less absurd, if not so religiously charged. They prod voters to obtain a commitment from contesting candidates that they would never sit in an AC room and remove ACs from their residences, that they would never travel in a luxury car but always in hooded jeeps, that they would never keep a driver and would drive their jeeps themselves—and, surprise, surprise, would always support the passage of the Jan Lokpal Bill. There are many other points in this one-page ‘letter of oath’ that point to a simple thing—the anti-corruption agitation of Anna Hazare has gone nuts.

It was hard to miss the farce at Fatehpur. Nearly half the 2,000-odd present at the Mahadev Talab ground were children, most of them from local Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, who had come in their school uniforms and are clearly not yet eligible to vote. When Kiran Bedi, speaking after other members of Team Anna had delivered their speeches, asked “voters” in the crowd to raise their hands, the ones that shot up instantaneously belonged to schoolchildren. Those who might be eligible to vote didn’t even get Bedi’s instructions immediately, and by the time they realised this, it had become too awkward to obey. Bedi, apparently unfazed by all this, went on: “See, how voters are responding to Anna’s call. Now all of you stand up and swear with me that we will never vote for the corrupt.” This time nearly everyone responded, but the schoolkids were again the most eager.

That was the first voters’ awareness rally of Team Anna, which left Fatehpur as soon as Kiran Bedi had finished her monologue around 2.30 pm on 2 February. The next destination was Gonda, about 140 km away from Fatehpur. Here the meeting began at 4 pm at the Ramlila Maidan in the heart of town, though the cavalcade of Team Anna reached slightly behind schedule. The farce was repeated here too. So was the silent message, though members of Team Anna continued to maintain that they were not foisting a political choice on prospective voters. As in Fatehpur, the organisers of the event at Gonda too had among them a generous peppering of the Hindutva brigade. The chief organiser of Team Anna’s voters’ awareness rally at Gonda, Dr Dilip Shukla, is a known RSS face in the area. Once again, the lieutenants of Anna Hazare set about their task in earnest—ripping apart Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Digvijaya Singh and many others, besides SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP leader Mayawati. Once again they maintained a calculated silence vis-à-vis the saffron party. When they spoke of the BJP, they didn’t fail to mention the “strong” Lokayukta Bill brought in by the BJP government in Uttara khand. And as they concluded the meeting, once again, they left no doubt in the minds of those present who Team Anna would have them vote for.

By the time they reached the Gulab Bari ground at Faizabad, around 1 pm on 3 February, Team Anna’s language had acquired the subtlest change in inflection. Here, they started off with the need to change the present system so that farmers, labourers and the unemployed could get their due, before returning to the familiar theme of bashing every other party save the BJP. Praise for the Uttarakhand BJP government’s “strong” Lokayukta bill was now a little subdued; there was mild criticism too of the party’s UP state unit for not yet promising voters that they would follow Uttarakhand’s example. But only the envelope had changed, the message hadn’t—by the time the Faizabad leg concluded, Team Anna had left voters here in no doubt which way they leant. ‘Don’t vote for the BJP till it promises you a strong Lokayukta in your state’ was another way of saying ‘vote the BJP if it does’.

The reasons for Team Anna’s restraint in Faizabad are not hard to figure. Unlike in their previous stops at Fatehpur and Gonda, the rally at Faizabad was organised mainly by those who have for long been associated with the Left and Dalit politics in the region—names like Gopal Krishna Verma, who led the group that organised the rally at Faizabad, and team members Arvind Murty, Nitin Kumar Mishra and Vinod Singh, among others. The presence on the dais of Tariq Sayeed—a senior member of the local intelligentsia and head of the Urdu department of KS Saket PG College, Ayodhya—who presided over the public meeting at Faizabad, may have been a deterrent for members of Team Anna and forced them to be less deferential to the BJP than in the previous two meetings.

Their restraint notwithstanding, most members of Team Anna were silent on the threat of communalism. Only one of them, Mufti Shamoom Kazmi, underlined the need to fight communal politics. “Ayodhya means the place where no one fights, but some politicians of a particular party have tried to damage Hindu-Muslim unity in the name of religion. We must not forget that we can fight against corruption only if we remain one irrespective of our religious identities.”

Here, too, Kiran Bedi created a flutter on the dais when she elbowed out stage manager Arvind Murty, who wanted to call speakers to the mike in a prearranged order. Bedi had ideas of her own, and when she grabbed the mike, Murty left the dais in a huff. She proceeded to hold forth for half an hour, and by the time former MP Ilyas Azmi, who was supposed to speak before her, began his address, the crowd had begun to recede.

In Basti a few hours later, the last stop of the first leg of the campaign, the Anna anthem had been restored to its original fervour. Gone was the aberrant restraint of Faizabad, most apparent in the speeches of Bedi and Sisodia. Only three speakers of Team Anna—Sanjay Singh, Manish Sisodia and Kiran Bedi—spoke here, and the meeting was wrapped up in less than an hour because some of the Team’s leading lights had to catch a train to Delhi. “Rahul Gandhi says UP has been looted for the past 21 years. He says if you give him a chance, he will change the state in the next five years. Fact is, the Congress is in pain because it has not been able to loot UP for the past 21 years. That’s what they want to do now.” That was Sisodia. Bedi made a shorter speech here (remember she had a train to catch), signing off with the now familiar reference to the BJP government in Uttarakhand and its “strong” Lokayukta Bill.

As for the organisers of the rally at Basti, the presence of the Sangh Parivar was even more obvious here. Harishchandra Pratab Singh, an advocate and a key figure in the local committee, has been district convenor of the Shri Rama Janmabhoomi Mukti Sewa Samiti formed in the late 1980s and was one of the leaders of its karsewak wing. He is a well-known Hindutva face in the district.

Even the four-page message of Anna Hazare, distributed at all four stops, has a clear pro-BJP bias. Anna’s message is a litany of charges, framed as questions for Rahul Gandhi, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati. For the sake of form, the tail-end of the message has some questions for the BJP too, but they sound more like exhortations to repeat what Team Anna sees as the party’s stellar performance in Uttarakhand. There’s not a mention, for example, of the corruption of the BJP government in Karnataka, nor its communal record in Gujarat. So, while the pamphlet names P Chidambaram and Mulayam Singh and Mayawati, it bestows no such honour on former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa or Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

When Anna Hazare sat on his first indefinite fast at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar in April last year, his proximity to the Sangh Parivar was on show. Hindutva symbols were a feature of the stage decor. Understandably, it drew flak from people then close to the movement but not similarly inclined politically. When it still seemed important to take these people along, as in Anna’s next show at the Ramlila Maidan, his lieutenants tried to play down this association—Gandhi had now replaced ‘Bharat Mata’ as stage backdrop. In UP, Anna and his henchmen were back to home base. In the days to come, as the political battle rages in the state, Kiran Bedi and her cohorts may continue to make a great deal of sound and fury. But it won’t amount to much except this: Team Anna’s transformation into Team B of the BJP is complete.


Is RSS working hard for affiliation with Anna? (NDTV)

In Feature, News links on September 1, 2011 at 4:05 am

From: NDTV

Is RSS working hard for affiliation with Anna?

Rahul Shrivastava‎, Updated: September 01, 2011 00:31 IST

Since the government agreed to Anna Hazare’s three must-have powers for the new Lokpal or anti-corruption agency, the activist ended his fast and Team Anna has been publicly praising the Prime Minister.

The Manmohan Government’s relief is not shared by the Congress. The grand old party is worried about the manner in which the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) and political rival -the BJP – silently but actively aided the 74-year-old’s popular protests. The saffron outfit turned the protests at sites like the Ramlila Ground in Delhi – into an opportunity.

Through some visible and not so visible moves the RSS has tried to associate itself to Anna’s campaign.
On Tuesday, Mohan Bhagwat, the head of the BJP’s parent body made a rare public appearance in Pune and said that “people were just fed up of corruption and they had no one to look up to and then came Anna’s agitation which restored people’s faith and also gave a boost to their confidence.”

Less than a fortnight ago the RSS top brass had met in Ujjain and cleared a ‘Support Anna’ resolution. Spurred by this BJP’s Nitin Gadkari wrote to Anna, pledging his support.

Old RSS hand and ex BJP Delhi Unit Chief Mangeram Garg – was heading the Sangh’s “ops-room”.
At Ramlila Maidan, Anna’s home during his 12 day fast, Sangh affiliates posted hundreds of men in the crowd, who could be identified by their chant of Vande Mataram.

Kumar Vishwas, once a senior man within the RSS, was Anna’s stage manager at Ramlila Maidan and was often seen reciting poems and introducing guests on stage. Coincidentally Vishwas was the stage manager for Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev’s aborted protests too.

Tejinder Pal of the Party’s Yuva Morcha, which is the youth wing of the BJP helped mobilize those who protested outside the homes of Congress leaders to signal their dissastisfaction.

The free meals that were a big draw at Ramlila Madian were funded. by the RSS’ affiliate Goraksha (save the cow) unit.

But the RSS kept its involvement discrete. Anna insulated his protests from the saffron taint by forbidding right-or left wing leader from sharing the stage with him. In fact two BJP MPs who visited Ramlila Maidan – Ananth Kumar and Gopinath Munde- to express solidarity to Anna – were heckled by the crowd.

Team Anna opted to ignore the presence of RSS ranks among the protestors and the criticism it drew.

“There was no direct financial support from the RSS to IAC (India Against Corruption movement). There were no direct links with them or to funding, but they could well be part of the thousands and lakhs of volunteers who were helping with food …and there’s nothing wrong with that,” said one of Anna’s closest associates, Prashant Bhushan.

Anna has warned that he has other causes – like electoral reforms for which he plans to campaign. By affiliating closely with Anna, the RSS and the BJP are hoping to gain political points as key states like UP get ready to vote.

Read more at: http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/is-rss-working-hard-for-affiliation-with-anna-130483&cp

Everybody Loves a Good Protest (Jay Mazoomdaar)

In Feature on August 30, 2011 at 6:42 pm

From: Open Magazine

Dissent is a casualty at the Anna show where his rainbow coalition of supporters eats, drinks and makes protest before the camera

by Jay Mazoomdaar

Retired Director General of Maharashtra Police SS Virk, who knows something about dealing with Anna Hazare and his fasts, has this story to tell. “In 2009, he was on fast, demanding an inquiry in a criminal case. I called him up and said, ‘Anna, everyone on your stage is not a saint and you should not put your life at risk for people who don’t really care if you die.’ He agreed. I quickly ordered an inquiry at my level and he called off his fast.”

The former top cop pauses for effect. “I told him his life was precious and he must live to fight for bigger causes. A simple, reasonable man, he responded graciously. But this time he has big support. This Ramlila protest… how is the mood there?”


It’s carnivalesque, at first glance, with nearly everyone in sight clicking away—a few with DSLRs, many with point-and-shoot variants, the rest with mobile cams. The crowd is only occasionally in focus. Mostly it forms the backdrop as they shoot themselves, posing with the tricolour or with the more colourful characters around. Three boys and a girl from Sultanpur video-recorded themselves “being interviewed” by this lowly reporter. Being here, a part of this grand spectacle, is like being in the movies they’ve watched.

But isn’t it about anger, about righteous indignation, about protesting against corruption? You might spot them too, if you look past these hormonally charged youth with their frozen wide grins — there are enough scowls on grim faces. It is easier, though, to spot the signs of a ‘popular protest’ around the dozen or so platforms occupied by the news channels. Handheld cameras for vox pops or crane-mounted for panorama, the TV cams are everywhere. So many of them and so eager that after a point people actually get choosy.

Cameras and anger (canned and real) are not the only, or even the most defining, elements of the rally. A couple of protestors who on Friday complained that they were not being allowed to fast alongside Anna assured me on Sunday that the free meals were “good for a rally”. Biscuits and bananas are plentiful. And, true to the spirit of Anna’s cause, strict volunteers threw some school students out of the queues on Saturday for collecting and “hoarding” more than they could possibly eat.

Some Class XI students of a government school from Sangam Vihar were more interested in the ice candies that were not going free. So a vendor did bulk business. Candies put away, a few of them spoke to me reluctantly: they supported Anna; this was their first visit to the Ramlila ground; they had saved on bus fare by travelling without tickets.


Print journalists are cynical by training, just like their TV counterparts are hysterical. I was trying hard to suspend instinct. Particularly because I hadn’t met the girl who, asked if she had read the Jan Lokpal Bill, apparently said she was a science student and did not know much about civics, or even the young MNC worker who blamed corruption for high tax rates.

Late Sunday night, a news channel was beaming yet another corruption special. Citing an example of the corruption he’d faced, one young man said he’d had to pay to get a building plan sanctioned since he or his father could not have possibly visited the government office over and over to fulfil all the requirements. The next one spoke of a cop who hid behind a tree to catch people jumping a traffic light. Why was the cop hiding, asked this ‘victim of corruption’; he’d jumped the signal only because he couldn’t see the cop.

I try to find some answers in the Ramlila throng. Asked why A Raja was in jail, four young men from Yamuna Vihar said it was because the minister had stashed away money in Italy. I also drew three blanks and nine correct answers. Then a young girl claimed that Raja had bribed the Prime Minister.

It must be a reflection on my reporting skill that I did not find a single person in the crowd below 35 who had heard of the JP movement, which drew the biggest crowds by far to these grounds in 1975. A dapper Gurgaon youth, who wouldn’t divulge his profession, thought I was referring to JP Morgan. “Jaypee group? Constructionwala?” shot back another protestor, who had brought his six-year-old boy along.

Few had heard of Posco or Vedanta or Jaitapur either. And fewer said they would stand by their fellow citizens in the villages in their fights. Only one, a spare parts dealer in East Delhi’s Laxminagar, was candid: “It is the media that brings people. We watched Anna on TV and we are here. How can I rally against Posco if I don’t know about it?”

People here don’t like being asked if they’ve read the Jan Lokpal Bill. Till Team Anna started educating the crowd from the stage on Monday, few had any idea of the Bill, except that it will “police the PM, the Judiciary and will end corruption”. Asked who will choose the Jan Lokpal, people either name Anna or say the janata will decide.

But didn’t the same Parliament and political parties and NAC (National Advisory Council) pass the people-friendly RTI Act two years ago? A lively group of young musicians jamming at the site were venturing some answers when the crowds intervened. Soon, a few exchanges like “Kaun hain yeh jo sab poochh rahe hain” (Who are these inquisitors?) and “Congress ne agent bheje hain” (the Congress has sent agents) ended the debate. A lot of wagging fingers and a little shoving around settled it—Anna’s Jan Lokpal Bill was the only means to end corruption. I was told to write it down. I did.


There is strength in numbers and numbers add easily at the Ramlila ground. A sizeable anti-Congress, pro-BJP crowd is conspicuous. There are school students in uniform and the youth have come prepared with face paint and flags, much like they would for an IPL match at the Ferozeshah Kotla stadium not far away.

And there are the others. I sit down with a group of five friends and they smell of alcohol in the afternoon. All smiles, they tell me they do nothing and were getting bored whiling away time in their Shastri Park bylanes. “Idhar music hai, masti hai. Bas hit gana suno, aur ladki dekho” (It’s fun here. Just sit back, listen to the music and check out girls). On cue, the loudspeakers blare yet another Rang De Basanti number.

Many young couples have walked in too; one can tell because they avoid the cameras. Families are regulars in the evening and also after dinner. The police should take credit: it’s their host-like graciousness that has made this middle-class family entertainment possible. With so many of them deployed here, mob aggression is naturally under check, though one constable did get slapped around (nobody was really sure why) till his colleagues rescued him.

Then there are the rally and trade fair regulars—pickpockets among them, for whom this must be a bonanza. Also, there has been the usual spike in business in the red light quarters on GB road; a 25 per cent increase, reported a daily, is standard every time there is a big rally at the Ramlilamaidan.

Yet, this crowd is unlike any other that gathers at the Ramlila. Lanky Shahnawaz stands in his tattered kurta and watches proceedings intently. At a distance, an over-enthusiastic protestor accidentally steps on the tricolour while posing with it. Shahnawaz springs into action, pulls out the flag, wipes it clean, and gives the man a stare. And then returns to his watch behind the swelling crowd.

Shahnawaz does not talk, but many say they trooped in simply because an arrogant government refused them space for dissent. Kapil Sibal is villain No. 1. An autodriver from Shahdara says he felt humiliated by the way the minister spoke on TV: “Woh kya kya bolte hain aur kis tareeke se bolte hain TV pe? Woh hamare malik hain kya?” (See what he says on TV and how. Does he own us?)

For the majority, the methods of Team Anna do not matter. Musicians Bhavesh, Akansha and Ram are protesting for Anna from the day he was arrested. They do not know if Anna’s prescription will work. But they will take anything if that means “a shift, a change from the present system”.

Many also admit that they would not be here if it weren’t for Anna. Sweta Kumar and Basanti Sharma have come from Chhatarpur with their husbands and children. “What will he (Anna) get out of it? It is rare to find a selfless man,” says Basanti’s husband Devender, who works at Customs clearance and knows “how bad corruption can get”.

For the less privileged, though, corruption is an abstract and the real issue is runaway inflation. While paying Rs 5 for a cup of tea, an elderly protestor from Faridabad said he could get one for Rs 2 not so long ago. Stay-at-home women in particular rue how their household budgets have gone for a toss.

The Gandhian angle of Anna’s protest has also drawn thousands of senior citizens to Ramlila. Yet, some like Vaje Singh from Haryana never need much prodding. “I have been protesting since 1965 when the movement for a separate Haryana state was launched. I protested during the JP movement, during the Emergency, with Bansi Lal, with Vajpayee and I was here when Baba Ramdev held his dharna,” gushes the 69-year-old.


Kiran Bedi can add drama to routine health bulletins. “Anna’s BP is 80-130.Aap aur humse achhe hain (Better than you and me),” she roars from the stage on Sunday. The crowd roars back. “Heartbeat is 78. Better than you and me.” Another roar from the crowd. Dr Naresh Trehan, arguably India’s most expensive doctor, appears in the evening to check all’s well with the mascot.

On Monday, though, it seems even Anna’s stage has some room for dissent. Bedi tells the crowd that Anna’s BP is fine but his kidney is infected. Soon, Arvind Kejriwal denies any infection. But much as a few SMS jokes describe Anna as Kejriwal’s Nathha (remember Peepli Live?), the veteran faster, Virk recalls, knows his body and is no puppet.

On Sunday again, Bedi lauds the PM in the morning. “He has done such a commendable job with the Nuclear Bill. I appeal to him to support the Jan Lokpal Bill.” In the evening, activist Akhil Gogoi from Assam blasts the PM, calling him a fraud and accuses him of selling the country to the US.

Away from the stage, I meet two disgruntled Anna associates, who shared the stage with him during his fast at Jantar Mantar. The movement’s growing popularity and clout has drawn many new faces and apparently sidelined the duo. “A few people sharing the stage with Anna are so corrupt that I fear for him,” alleges one. So why did they not warn Anna? “You think it’s easy to reach him these days?” snaps another. So will they spill it to the media? “The media is in no mood for anything anti-Anna now.”

Walking out, I found Shahnawaz outside the ground. This time, he talks. “I am from the LNJP colony across the road. I work at a butcher’s shop. Yesterday, I was at the protest. Today I managed Rs 500 and brought these flags to make some money.” He hopes to finish off his stock if the crowds keep pouring in.

Shahnawaz takes out a bidi and asks for a light. As I search in my pouch, he warns me of pickpockets. I tell him that, according to a daily, crime rates have dropped since Anna began his fast. He laughs, “Police darr gaye, chor nahin (the police have got scared, not the thieves).”

I recall that the cop who came home this morning for passport verification didn’t ask for a bribe. Could it be the Anna effect? Or was I just being cynical as usual and doubting an honest cop? I may never find out.

The Sangh Parivar is riding piggyback on the anti-corruption campaign

In Feature on August 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm

From the print issue of: Hardnews, August 2011


The Sangh Parivar is riding piggyback on the anti-corruption campaign. But what is Anna camp’s not-so-secret game?

Akash Bisht Delhi

As Baba Ramdev approached the dais at Jantar Mantar on the fourth day of Anna Hazare’s fast against corruption in April 2011, the crowds jostled for space to get a view of the television celebrity. Loud applause greeted Ramdev. The entire Anna camp had smiles on their faces. Pumping himself, Ramdev started his speech with ‘Anna tum aage badho, hum tumhare saath hai’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ before declaring that all the corrupt should be hanged. He also sang a “typical RSS song”, as a Hindi TV journalist informed. His supporters had literally taken over the show; it appeared as if the Anna campaign had skidded and Ramdev had successfully hijacked it. “Yes, he tried it. Had he come just to support us, he wouldn’t have engaged in such a drama. When someone tries to hijack something, it shows,” Swami Agnivesh later told Hardnews in April.

A slow tension simmered in the Anna camp. They were seduced by Ramdev’s ‘television support base’ and did not really have the courage to say no. RSS had also passed a resolution asking its cadres across the country to actively participate in Anna’s camp. RSS General Secretary Suresh Joshi had reportedly written a letter to Anna extending support; this letter was handed over to Anna by RSS spokesman Ram Madhav who also shared the stage. This came under severe criticism from secular forces, including the Congress.

The Anna camp tried, at least, to make it appear as if it was distancing itself from Ramdev. However, the ghost of ‘Sangh backing’ keeps returning to haunt them. Hardnews spoke to several members of the Sangh Parivar: So what exactly transpired?

“Even if he is our mukhota (mask), what is wrong with that? If someone else does it, we will be with them too. The Sangh Parivar is a hardcore nationalist organisation and we will participate in all such movements. However, we are not the policy makers, we just supported it,” said Prakash Sharma, spokesperson, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

Anna reportedly had close relations with some RSS members before he rose to national prominence. His work has also been restricted around Maharashtra, and he is not known to have been an active participant in various social and people’s movements all over India, or in the “campaign against globalisation and communal fascism”, a pet theme of activists like Medha Patkar. DM Date, an RSS pracharak, was particularly close and accompanied him to various Sangh functions in and around Pune, remember old-timers. Incidentally, one of the first books on Anna was penned by former RSS general secretary HV Seshadri. His book, The Village that Reminds Us of Ramarajya, is one of the first chronicles of Anna’s experiments in Ralegan Siddhi. “Several swayamsevaks (RSS cadre) have visited Ralegan Siddhi to see the work done by Anna,” said KN Govindacharya, former BJP organisational secretary and
RSS ideologue.

Indeed, Anna had once even showered praise on Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader Raj Thackeray, known for his chauvinist and fundamentalist politics, and for unleashing his goons on migrants from North India. He had then said, “Outsiders trying to prove their dominance in the state is not at all acceptable.” DR Goyal, a former RSS member who has written Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, one of the most authoritative accounts of the secret cult of RSS, said, “Ramdev at Ramlila Maidan still had some of his yoga followers, but Anna’s crowd was bursting with RSS cadres. The kind of pamphlets and slogans that reverberated at Jantar Mantar could only have been the handiwork of RSS.” (He is right. Praises of gau mutra (cow urine) and gau raksha (cow protection), apart from personal attacks on Sonia Gandhi’s ‘foreign origin’, were being openly floated at Jantar Mantar during Anna’s fast.)

“RSS is in crisis and in decline. Youngsters and educated people are not joining it, or visiting their shakhas. So they tried to ride the Anna bandwagon,” said Goyal. Goyal is categorical that Ramdev is an RSS man, and this was reflected when Sadhvi Ritambara and ‘other Rightwing personalities’ shared the dais with him at Ramlila Maidan. “When Ramdev was taken to Haridwar, what were Ashok Singhal and Uma Bharti doing there? But the real question is, what was the Anna camp doing with Ramdev?” said Goyal.

There is a view in the UPA government, and within secular NGOs, that the police action in Ramlila Ground had become necessary, not only because Ramdev had violated his signed agreement, or his promise that this would only be a yoga shivir. It was also crystal clear that RSS and its front organisations formed the vanguard of Ramdev’s show, with ex-IB chief Ajit Doval, Govindacharya and Sangh ideologue Gurumurthy as backroom strategists. According to sources, there was a genuine fear of communal tension, or even motivated violence to inflame riots, in this sensitive area near old Delhi.

Also, it is alleged that there was (and continues to be) a sinister conspiracy to use the Anna and Ramdev campaign and create a putsch kind of situation, organise mass anarchy and civil society unrest, and destablise the elected government in New Delhi. “RSS also wants to divert national attention from the Hindutva terror groups’ role in various blasts, with direct RSS linkages,” said a
social activist.

According to Goyal, both the movements are basically a handiwork of the RSS, which wants to destabilise the government, but knows that BJP has lost the political credibility to lead any such movement. “That’s why they need Ramdev and Anna, so that they can ride piggyback. RSS wants to alter the Constitution and they have tried doing it in the past. Their idea of Dharam Sansad was shot down during the BJP-led NDA regime because of coalition compulsions.”

Govindacharya played a crucial role in mobilising the Sangh cadre to join Ramdev. But the yoga guru “betrayed” the movement by reaching a secret agreement with the government. “By raising the RSS issue, the government succeeded in weakening the agitation,” he said. “Erroneously, Team Anna thought they would get stronger in isolation; instead, they were weakened. Anna’s untouchability approach will not help the movement against corruption,” he said. The Anna camp should have spoken about “alternate politics” instead of their “apolitical stance”.

However, RSS spokesman Ram Madhav denies any RSS role in Anna’s campaign: “We would only say that these are very old tactics of the government to divert attention. We are behind nobody and not even ahead of anybody. We are with everyone who is fighting for the interest of this country.”

Senior BJP leader and former Bajrang Dal chief Vinay Katiyar told Hardnews, “Five people cannot dictate terms to the government. They are not above Parliament and should fight elections. They think they are the only repositories of truth, while the rest are chors (thiefs); this will not take them far. Why should we take their draft? MPs should discuss the bill, or else, there will be total anarchy. Tomorrow, anyone can come up with such demands and sit on a fast. This is not the right precedent.”

However, the Sangh Parivar maintains that all possible support will be extended to such agitations. Govindacharya felt this is a public interest issue and they will keep talking. He added that Sangh members are everywhere and their presence shouldn’t be seen as a hindrance. “I want to tell both Anna and Ramdev that they shouldn’t be apologetic and should not bother about the colour of the cat till it catches the mice. We are ready to provide both tacit and active support,” he said. And Goyal predicts, “If Anna sits on a fast, RSS will again support him.”

Iftikhar Gilani, Tehelka, 'Is RSS running Anna show?

In Feature on August 23, 2011 at 11:07 am

Is RSS running the Anna show?, asks Iftikhar Gilani, in his Tehelka article:

Iftikhar Gilani, Is RSS running the Anna Show? Tehelka.com, August 18, 2011.

The bulk of support to crusader Anna Hazare is coming from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) youth cadres. It is not an allegation by the Congress but an open admission by senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj.

She attacked Home Minister P Chidambaram in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday during a debate on the Hazare episode, the text of which was released on Thursday, for getting agitated for the RSS involvement in the people’s movement launched by the crusader for a strong and effective Lokpal to curb corruption.

Asserting that there should be no doubt about the RSS role in Hazare’s crusade, she pointed out that the RSS is a part of India Against Corruption movement, the body under whose banner he is agitating for a strong Lokpal Bill. She pointed out that the RSS is not extending any secret support but officially mobilising support through Youth against Corruption, an arm of the RSS student wing, Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

“Why do the police not take any action when separatists from Kashmir come and make seditious speeches in Delhi? You protect their human rights. But if a sadhu in saffron or a Gandhian supported by the RSS comes to protest in Delhi, you start raining batons on them. I want to know why people get agitated by the mere mention of the RSS,” she asked, asserting that the RSS is a nationalist organisation.

She wanted all to know the political clout the RSS wields in the country, though being an unregistered “cultural organisation.” She pointed out that “116 MPs in this House and 45 members of the Upper House owe allegiance to the RSS while seven chief ministers of various states are also committed to the RSS.”

“Do you still believe the RSS does not have support in the country? Why is the government then getting so agitated and upset if a people’s movement is supported by the RSS,” she asked.

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