Anna Hazare's anti-corruption squad will campaign for a strong ombudsman in the five Indian states headed for elections over the next few months.
But Team Anna has given up plans to campaign against the Congress Party, specifically, and Anna himself will not participate due to his poor health, according to the Indian Express.
“Though it is clear that the [Congress-led United Progressive Alliance] government has betrayed us, the stance taken by other parties is also doubtful. Besides that, in an election there are several other issues. ... when you ask people not to vote for a particular party, they ask you who they should vote for then. The problem is that other parties are also not clean,” said Arvind Kejriwal, Team Anna's chief organizer.
The development is a mixed blessing for the Congress, which is now arguing that it pushed hard for the ombudsman, or Lokpal, that Hazare's people have been demanding since this summer — when tens of thousands of street protesters gathered to demonstrate against India's ubiquitous corruption in the capital.
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It's great that Hazare won't target the party of Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi directly, but it's still likely to take some heat for corruption given the number of alleged scams that surfaced under Singh's watch.
On Tuesday, Rahul Gandhi blamed the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for killing the Lokpal bill in the upper house of parliament after the UPA introduced and passed it in the lower house this December, the Economic Times reports.
"A strong Lokpal bill will be brought in the next session of Parliament without caring about opposition to it," Rahul said, while addressing a series of meetings on the fourth day of his five-day election tour of Uttar Pradesh.
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The Uttar Pradesh elections will therefore be a referendum of sorts on the Hazare movement and the Congress Party's ability to shift the blame.
My bet: Politics as usual — caste and cows and job and education quotas for special interest groups — will trump the flailing movement for change. That's why, for example, you see the Congress pushing for a separate quota for Muslims within the “other backward classes” category — a move that could hive off that section of the OBC vote.