In the last few years, Anna Hazare has gone from being a social activist to a national icon. As the septuagenarian chalks out future strategies for his agitation, he speaks about being labelled the second Gandhi, the future of party politics in the country, and the need for co-existence, development and corruption alleviation. He states firmly that the fight is not against the government, but against its corrupt tendencies. Excerpts from the interview.
How do you spend your day?
I get up at 5. I do one-and-half hours of yoga, pranayama, then meditation. At 8:30, people start coming. This continues till evening. In between I find time to write letters. I sleep at 10.
What do you eat every day
Roti and vegetables, one time per day. In the morning, I take milk. In the evening, I take one glass of juice.
Thousands of people came out to support your fast. Are you worried that people’s expectations of change are too high?
A.This question occurs to me, also. I don’t have wealth. I live in a temple. How can a man like me, who lives in a temple, fulfil the expectations of people across the country? What can I do? But I have faith in God that whatever the expectations of the people, somehow God will find a way for these things to be done.
What is next for you? What are your aspirations?
I don’t have any aspirations. I do my selfless work.
Do you want to be prime minister? Get into politics
This is muck for me. I will neither contest elections nor make a party nor go into politics. But in four or five years, if I get good people, I will ask them to fight elections.
You are being called the nation’s next Gandhi. What do you feel about this comparison?
I am not Gandhi, I don’t consider myself anywhere close to him in stature. His life and ideology has had a huge impact on the world. I merely try to imbibe some of his values in my life, like issues of rural development. I would like to appeal to the people not to compare me with him — that is not right. It doesn’t do justice to his greatness.
The anti-corruption movement is being compared to the Maoist movement. It is said that both the movements seek to overthrow the state. Is that true?
This is a misunderstanding. We have nothing to do with the government. We are merely ensuring that the corrupt tendencies don’t show their ugly head in people’ lives. It is because of corruption that prices are rising. We are rooting out the corrupt attitude. Our fight is against corruption, not against the government… We do not blame the entire lot. There are some clean people in the government.
You have said that all clean, like-minded people should come together and form a new independent party. How realistic and practical is that in today’s day and age?
I felt it [that a clean party should be formed], so I said it. I hope that it happens. The future lies in like-minded people coming together. Party politics is insufficient; none of the parties are clean. People are forgetting the country is bigger than the party. To add to that, some politicians are becoming bigger than their party. In this bargain, the cause of the country is lost. So, I thought that all the clean people should come together for the country.
Even otherwise, our andolan is on. We will use the people’s might to create pressure. It is the need of the hour. Some people find using pressure wrong, but constitution gives us the right to fight for our rights.
Finally, don’t you think there are more pressing issues that are plaguing India, other than just corruption?
The government hasn’t understood this. For poverty eradication, corruption is not the only answer. Take the example of this village. 80 per cent people were starving. It was a barren land, and people were working in alcohol shops, they walked for ten km to find work, to break stones. Poverty alleviation through development is necessary. Development and corruption eradication go hand in hand. That is why we are taking up other issues of reforms, along with corruption.