Virgin terrain: Team Anna faces several challenges in political arena

Unlike any other grouping in India, Anna Hazare’s political machine is not built on either ethnicity or caste.

Raksha Kumar August 05, 2012

NEW DELHI: Anna Hazare and his team of activists may have turned their anti-graft crusade into a political movement but their unfamiliarity with electoral politics and their poor organisational structure will severely test them, analysts said on Sunday.

The 75-year-old Hazare has promised to spend the next year and a half campaigning across the country -- though he says he will not himself contest the general elections in 2014. It is becoming increasingly clear that both Hazare and his key strategist Arvind Kejriwal will have to decide soon whether or not to contest the upcoming assembly elections in BJP-ruled Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Hazare and his aides say the new political party will fight corruption both within and outside parliament.

Team Anna’s main challenge would be of funding and organisational support. Forming a political party only requires registering with the Election Commission. However, it takes massive resources, a massive base of party workers and candidates to run for elections.

“I don’t see much of a hope for them in electoral politics,” says Dr Saroj Giri, professor of political science at Delhi Unversity.“Their movement was based on creating a sensational wave. The other political parties have an organisational structure that seeps in till the district levels.  Team Anna has not made any attempts to build a party.”

Others are not so sure. “No one can speculate how this political party would affect change,” said Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Centre for Policy Research, a respected think-tank. “Suppose there are two more huge scams that will drastically change the mood of the nation, and favour Team Anna.”

The party’s name and agenda are open to suggestions from the people, Kejriwal announced on Friday.  “It is all fine to ask for public opinion to set the agenda for the party, but they have to develop a decision making structure. Someone will have to call the shots,” said Mehta.

Most political parties in India are supported by their ethnicities or caste groups. The Team Anna political grouping will be a non-regional, non-ethnic, non-caste group. Such a unique formation has no precedent in India’s politics - a single-issue movement transitioning into a single-issue political party.

“Corruption is at the top of every middle-class and upper middle-class person,” said Mehta. Yogendra Yadav, a political analyst, called this a brave move.

But this call for forming a political party has angered some prominent members of the team and a huge number of volunteers. “We respect it as their decision, not ours. Alternative politics is needed, but beyond party. Movements' politics should aim at power to people. It is easy for politicians to fight us on their turf," said Medha Patkar, social activist and a supporter of the Anna movement.

“This is a flash mob model in Indian politics,” said Dr Giri, “they are a media creation. Building a national party requires a lot more work than just sitting in Jantar Mantar on a fast.”

“If all they manage to do is to get disinterested genuine people into politics, they have served their purpose,” said Mehta.

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