Arvind Kejriwal, social activist and founder member of the India Against Corruption (IAC), tells Sreelatha Menon their biggest mistake was not to give room to other issues and voices when support for the movement against corruption was at its peak. Edited excerpts:
Is your movement over?
We were waiting for the government to pass the Lok Pal Bill. Now it appears they are not interested. When we analysed the situation, we found there was evidence in the public domain against 15 of the 34 ministers in the Union Cabinet. How can the government bring a Bill that would hurt them? So, we took another step. We launched a movement to clean the Cabinet. Unless we do so, there was no point talking about a Lok Pal Bill.
Don’t you think the spontaneous support you got from people last year is lost now? What could be the reason?
We feel there is still a lot of anger among the people. And if there is anger against corruption, then nothing has changed.
Do you think when you sit on a fast on July 25, the people would come pouring in?
I can't anticipate the response, but we will sit on a fast and demand investigation. It is up to the people whether they come and support us. There are lean phases in all movements. During the freedom struggle too, it was often said the movement had lost steam. What one must see is whether people have faith in the leadership or the cause.
With the kind of allegations that were raised against IAC members, the faith in leadership has come down. But people can see through the allegations. They know the purpose behind disclosures targeting the team members.
What would you count as your biggest achievement?
Our biggest achievement was two-fold. One-and-a-half year ago you would not have imagined the whole country would unite against corruption. Also, people earlier said the country was doomed and nothing could save it. There was despondency. Now there is hope. There is a feeling of confidence that something is possible.
What is your biggest failure?
We have made many mistakes and are learning from them. The biggest one was that we could have broad-based the organisation. We lost the opportunity to do that. We could have created space for groups who represented different interests, whether it was education or health or agriculture. For, there was corruption in every field. If we had seized the opportunity when our support was at its peak, we could have got a large number of people on our platform. That is what we want to do now. It is Team India’s movement. But it has got reduced to Team Anna’s movement. It should become everybody’s movement.
It is said that Anna Hazare is merely a symbol and is not even consulted.
All these charges are motivated. We are moving towards the same goals.
Can laws ensure that people in public life are clean? Is there a crisis where wrong has become the accepted right?
We have to talk of systems, clean them. It is not that our society is bad. We have first-rate people. They have the foundation in them for goodness. Our laws need to be changed to ensure that public life gets cleaned. If today someone is caught for bribery, there is no way that money can be recovered from the culprit. Given the right kind of system, good people would enter public life.
How do you see India Against Corruption a year from now?
Movements live on a day-to-day basis. But even though I am not an astrologer, I feel 2014 elections would be crucial. There will be a kranti (revolution). That is my hunch. The elections would throw up new alternatives. I don’t know who or what, but definitely there will be alternatives.
You have made allegations against Union ministers. Why have you spared non-Congress ministers?
We have made charges against Sharad Pawar. We included only those who are part of the UPA government. Our aim is the Lok Pal Bill. Why should we attack the non-UPA politicians when it is the UPA government which has to give us the Bill? Why should we shoot our arrows in all directions?
The resignation of Virbhadra Singh shows our evidence is strong. At least now the prime minister would be convinced about the need to set up a Special Investigation Team. He had earlier said our allegations were baseless.
Do you have supporters in the industry?
We are persona non grata. If someone helps us, he is immediately blacklisted. So people are afraid of helping us. There are some who help us discreetly.