Anna personality cult should be avoided: Prashant Bhushan

New Delhi: For thousands of people thronging the Ramlila Ground, many hopes rest on one man: Anna Hazare. But Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan feels “personification” of the anti-corruption movement is best avoided. He also says civil society activists are willing to iron out the creases in their Jan Lokpal Bill.

“I am not in favour of focussing too much on personality. Personality cult of the movement in the name of Anna should be avoided,” Bhushan said in an exclusive interview.

“People are focussing on Anna because the political leadership has failed to come up to their needs. The political class has lost its role. There is a total trust deficit,” said the lawyer, involved with the drafting of the anti-corruption Jan Lokpal bill, which civil society activists want to push through instead of the government version.

At the same time, he said: “We did not expect this much support. We knew it would be considerable, but not this much. People feel Anna is the legitimate torchbearer of the movement.”

The scenes at the Ramlila Ground bear him out.

From school students to senior citizens, they all wave flags and banners with Anna’s pictures. The ground reverberates with slogans of “Main bhi Anna, tu bhi Anna, ab to saara desh hai Anna.” (I am Anna, you are Anna, now the entire nation is Anna).

Thousands of supporters courted arrest at Chhatrasal Stadium when Delhi Police detained the 74-year-old activist ahead of his fast at JP Park Aug 16.

Referring to the massive crowd following Hazare from the Tihar Jail to the Ramlila Ground after his release, Bhushan said the ‘Anna wave’ has caught the pulse of youth, who are “fed up of politicians”.

Defending charges of Anna’s fast being a ‘blackmail’, Bhushan said: “It is wrong to say that we are resorting to ‘my way or the highway’.”

“We are aware of the criticism we are drawing from some corners, but then it depends how you look at fasting. The cause for which we are fasting is legitimate. We are not putting a gun to the forehead of the government and asking it to meet our demands,” said Bhushan, son of veteran lawyer and former minister Shanti Bhushan, who too is a part of the civil society movement.

Hazare began his fast Aug 16 when he was taken to the Tihar Jail. Massive protests across the country forced the government to release him the same day — but he refused to move out until all restrictions on his fast were removed. Hazare finally came out of jail Friday and continued his fast at the Ramlila Ground.

Bhushan says civil society is not going to settle for anything less than the Jan Lokpal bill in parliament, but added that Team Anna is “open for talks with the government”.

“We are not rigid on not having a discussion with the government, but it seems like the government is not willing to talk. We are willing to have discussions on the issues the government has with our version of the bill,” Bhushan said when he resumed the interview after a long meeting with Hazare.

“If there are creases to be ironed out in our version of the bill, we will do that. The standing committee should introduce the Jan Lokpal bill.

“Simply inviting Anna to the standing committee is not a viable option now,” Bhushan said as he rushed for another meeting.

“I may not be here 24X7, but I have to see the developments related to the Jan Lokpal bill,” he quipped. By Madhulika Sonkar