Is Arvind Kejriwal, a senior member of Team Anna, deliberately pursuing an increasingly independent line from Anna Hazare himself, or our their public disagreements of the past few days part of Team Anna’s grand design?
Such questions seem relevant given how events have unfolded over the past few days following Hazare’s supporters harsh attacks on the media over their coverage of the 75-year old social activist’s current fasting. On Tuesday Hazare broke with his supporters and went so far as to threaten to stop his agitation against corruption if his supporters continued their verbal assaults on the media, telling them that the "media and we have to work together to strengthen democracy. I request all not to misbehave to [the] media” again.
Minutes later his close associate Kejriwal made a bizaree statement that praised the reporters and their crew members for being part of Team Anna, while blaming the owners of the TV stations for not covering their protests enough.
"Shanti Bhushan had said that media owners have to decide who they are with. This provoked people here. I apologize for the misbehavior. If we have differences of opinion with the media we have to sort it out through dialogue. But I have to ask the media owners whether they are with the country," Kejriwal said.
Effectively, Kejriwal was seeking to walk a fine line between backing those criticizing the media without rebuking Hazare directly. The tension between Hazare and Kejriwal was evident, however, from the latter mentioning and defending Shanti Bhushan, a senior member of Camp Anna who had harshly criticized the media for its allegedly biased coverage, demanded an apology from those media outlets, and called for a boycott against them until one was issued.
This is not the first time in recent days that Kejriwal has publicly charted a different course from Hazare.
On July 28, for instance, Kejriwal had differed with Hazare on the issue of attacking Pranab Mukherjee after he became the president of India on July 25. Hazare as well as Yoga guru Baba Ramdev had cautioned supporters against targeting Mukherjee but Kejriwal unabashedly ignored them when, standing next to Harzare, he stated unequivocally, “Some people are saying that we should not talk about Pranab Mukherjee's corruption after he became President. I don't agree with that."
He did not stop here, however, instead indulging in an elaborate rant against the President and the current parliament including his memorable observation that the “President and parliament are not higher than God.” A combative Kejriwal went on to explain that, "the President post was decorated when Rajendra Prasad and Abdul Kalam were there, but now the post has lost its sheen. I respect the Parliament which Ambekar and Lal Bhahdur Shashtri attended; I don't respect the [current] Parliament which has Lalu Prasad, Mulayam Singh and Kanimozhi."
Only the time will tell whether Anna Hazare and Kejriwal are headed for a split or whether they are deliberating butting heads as part of some clever scheme.