Anna Hazare, angrily asked a leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to leave his village
Ralegan Siddhi, Maharashtra – A day after some signs of rapprochement, the rift between Anna Hazare and the Aam Aadmi Party on Friday came into the open at his fast venue with an AAP member clashing with former Army Chief V.K. Singh, who accused them of betraying the Gandhian.
The simmering bitterness aggravated to such an extent after Gen. Singh slammed AAP leaders for “deserting” the anti-graft campaigner and taking the political plunge that Mr. Hazare ordered the fledgling party’s representative at the venue Gopal Rai to leave the village.
It all started when Gen. Singh, a key Team Anna member, began castigating AAP leaders without naming them for parting ways with Mr. Hazare and floating a political outfit.
“When Annaji raised the voice for Jan Lokpal, many people rallied behind him but later left him. Today, they say it is because of them that there is Annaji and not because there is Annaji that they are there. Nobody can undermine something that Annaji has created.
“Today, if we have to take our nation forward, we need to unite and not float separate groups and separate parties,” Gen. Singh said, setting off a verbal duel with Mr. Rai.
Mr. Rai, who was seated among the audience and observing a fast since Thursday, joined issue with Gen. Singh, calling him an “agent” of BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi.
As the two engaged in a heated arguments, Mr. Hazare, whose hunger strike for passage in Parliament of Jan Lokpal Bill entered its fourth day on Friday, took the mike and started berating Mr. Rai.
“You were told not to join the fast but you did. Now people are asking you not to interrupt (Gen. Singh’s) speech and you are interrupting. If you have to create a ruckus, you leave the village. Don’t sit here. It is not proper to interrupt people when they are speaking,” Mr. Hazare said.
Later, speaking to the media, Mr. Rai said some people inimical to the Jan Lokpal movement were misleading Mr. Hazare.
“The agenda is Jan Lokpal and people are talking about betrayal. That too, a person who is making rounds of Modi for a ticket to contest elections. Many people are unable to digest our unity and they are poisoning Anna’s ears,” Mr. Rai said.
He said, “There is no distance (between Mr. Hazare and the AAP). As long as Jan Lokpal is our common goal, there cannot be distance. We would probably not have come here if Anna were not fasting for Jan Lokpal.
“Anna said don’t stay in Ralegan Siddhi but this is the fight of the entire country. I am leaving Anna’s village but will not leave him. I will continue my fast in Delhi,” he said.
Replying to a query about whether Mr. Hazare was taking wrong decisions under the influence of a coterie, Mr. Rai said, “We hope Anna will take the right decision at the right time.”
Reflecting a thaw in their relations with Mr. Hazare, an AAP team had on Thursday called on the Gandhian and pledged their support to his agitation.
AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, who could not come due to indisposition, had also spoken to Mr. Hazare, who was claimed to have given him his blessings.
Relations between the anti-graft activist and Mr. Kejriwal had come under severe strain after a video showing Mr. Hazare expressing disappointment over alleged misuse of funds collected during the India Against Corruption’s campaign for Jan Lokpal surfaced just ahead of the Delhi polls.
Mr. Kejriwal had said he was “very, very sad” over the video and demanded an open probe into Mr. Hazare’s allegation.
Mr. Hazare had later clarified he was mainly concerned about “misuse” of his name in the poll campaign and said the two are “not enemies”.