Class of 2011: How 7 key people of Anna Hazare's protest are faring now
The leading luminaries of Anna Hazare's anti-corruption agitation, which took the nation by storm in 2011 and shook the UPA government, have gone their separate ways while the face of the movement has lost his halo
Septuagenarian Anna Hazare’s recent letter slamming Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on the state liquor policy has once again put in spotlight the differences between the leaders — the two who were among the leading lights of what is known as the Anna Agitation of 2011.
Anna Agitation was launched in April 2011 to demand strong legislation and enforcement against political corruption through the introduction of Lokpal Bill. The agitation rocked the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and the loss of credibility the Congress-led coalition suffered consequently is what is believed to be the main reason behind its fall three years later, in 2014.
The idea finally took shape with the passing of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2013, in the Lok Sabha on December 18, 2013. However, no Lokpal has been appointed yet.
Anna Hazare had become the face of this anti-corruption movement and the team’s prominent members were Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan and Manish Sisodia. The team later split following differences between the members over a score of issues, the first major one being entering electoral politics and the subsequent formation of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) by Kejriwal. The Federal takes a look at what the prominent members of ‘Team Anna’ are doing today.
Anna Hazare: Halo is missing
Kisan Baburao “Anna” Hazare, the mascot of the anti-corruption movement, had made his name as a social activist in Maharashtra. The former army man had led movements to promote rural development, increase government transparency, and investigate and punish corruption in public life. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Union government in 1992 for his efforts in establishing the village Ralegaon Siddhi as a model for others.
After leading the highly successful Lokpal movement, Anna largely faded from the public consciousness. He does come into the news on and off, as in the case of his recent letter expressing “disappointment” in the Kejriwal government, but the aura is missing. In February 2015, he had protested for two days at Jantar Mantar in Delhi against the ordinance on the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 and in 2018 attempted to revive a nationwide movement for an “effective Lokpal”, which sent no ripples.
Earlier this year, he had vehemently opposed the then Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA)-led Maharashtra government’s proposal to sell wine in supermarkets and walk-in stores with an area over 1,000 sq ft. He had threatened to go on a fast-unto-death, which forced the MVA government to put the policy change to the backburner after the BJP rallied in Hazare’s support.
If Anna were to relaunch a movement now, it’s doubtful if it will attract the kind of public and media attention it did over 11 years ago.
Kejriwal: The shrewd politician
Arvind Kejriwal has been at the receiving end of Hazare’s criticism ever since the two had a falling out over the former’s political plunge in 2012. In December 2017, Hazare, who was once described by the AAP chief as his “guru”, even said, “I hope no Kejriwal comes out of my movement again.”
Kejriwal, an IIT-Kharagpur alumnus and former civil servant-turned-social activist, began campaigning against corruption while still a civil officer. He then resigned from his position at the Indian Revenue Services to start Parivartan, a grassroots movement for transparency in the government. In 2005, he, along with other activists, brought the Right to Information (RTI) Act into being, a crusade for which he won the Ramon Magsaysay award the year after.
As an activist, Kejriwal had initially maintained that he would “never join politics”. The shift in his stand angered Hazare and, in September 2012, the two parted ways. A month later Kejriwal founded AAP and tasted success in the Delhi Assembly elections the very first time. Today, he is a third-time Chief Minister of Delhi and in less than a decade since its inception, the AAP has become a force to reckon with.
First Delhi, then winning Punjab, Kejriwal, the undisputed leader of AAP, has eyes on states like Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Assam. He has proved himself to be a shrewd politician and has adroitly moved with time to position himself as a potential potent third force in Indian politics.
Kiran Bedi: Controversial governor
The first woman IPS officer turned social activist, Kiran Bedi was one of the prominent faces of the Anna agitation. A Magsaysay awardee, Bedi split from India Against Corruption (IAC) after Kejriwal formed the AAP in 2012.
During the 2014 general election, she publicly supported Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, and after Modi became the Prime Minister, she stated that she was ready to be the BJP’s CM candidate in Delhi, if such an offer was made to her. Eight months after Modi’s election, she joined the BJP in 2015 and was declared the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the 2015 Delhi assembly elections. She lost the election from Krishna Nagar constituency.
On May 22, 2016, she was appointed as the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, a post from which she resigned on February 16, 2021. Her tenure was marked with a number of controversies where she was criticised for encroaching on the powers of the elected government.
After resigning as L-G, she wrote a book titled Fearless Governance, based on her experiences of five years as L-G of Puducherry and her vast experience of 40 years in the IPS.
Nowadays she is mostly seen giving speeches at different fora in her capacity as founder of the NGOs India Vision Foundation and Navjyoti India Foundation.
Prashant Bhushan: Doing what he knows best
Prashant Bhushan was, along with Kejriwal and his father Shanti Bhushan, in the joint drafting committee of the Jan Lokpal bill that Team Anna drafted as a civil society’s counter to the government’s Lokpal Bill draft in 2011. He was the man suited to the work as he had made his name as a public interest lawyer in the Supreme Court.
Shashi Bhushan, now 96 years old, was also known as an aggressive lawyer who was also a key leader in the Anna agitation. His advanced age has seen him withdrawing from public life totally.
After a split in IAC, Prashant Bhushan helped Kejriwal form the AAP. But the duo soon parted ways as in 2015, Bhushan made several allegations against the party’s leadership, its functioning and its deviation from the core ideology, values and commitments. He then returned full-time to his law practice.
He is one of the founders of Swaraj Abhiyan, a political movement, along with Yogendra Yadav, another prominent IAC leader, and Sambhaavnaa, an institute of public policy and politics. He is also associated with various organisations including the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), and Transparency International (India). He is also the convenor of the Working Committee of the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Judicial Reforms.
Recently, Bhushan attracted heavy criticism from across political parties for his anti-vaccine tweets and criticism of mask mandates.
Manish Sisodia: Loyal deputy
Former television journalist-turned-social activist Manish Sisodia was another key member of Team Anna. He left his job as producer at Zee News to become an RTI activist, where he came in contact with Kejriwal. In 2005, with Kejriwal, he founded a society, Kabir, to spread awareness about RTI. According to Kejriwal, Kabir was mainly run by Sisodia.
After the IAC split, he continued to be aligned with Kejriwal and formed the AAP. When AAP first formed its short-lived government in December 2013 with outside support of the Congress and independents, he became a cabinet minister.
Since February 2015 he has been the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi. He holds the portfolios of education, PWD, finance, planning, excise, GST, vigilance, services, tourism, land & building, art, culture & language.
After the split in AAP in 2015, he became the second-most powerful leader in the party and is today seen as Kejriwal’s most loyal deputy. The rolled back controversial liquor policy and subsequent CBI raids on his residence and offices has seen Kejriwal strongly backing Sisodia.
Yogendra Yadav: Career activist
A psephologist by profession, Yogendra Yadav has been deeply involved in activism for various causes. He was a Senior Fellow with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi for 12 years till 2016. Till 2015, he was also a member of the National Executive of the APP, and is now one of its fierce critics.
Yadav is a founding member of the Swaraj Abhiyan and Jai Kisan Andolan. He was also the founding National President of Swaraj India, a registered political party. In the farmers’ protest against three controversial laws that rocked the nation for about a year, Yadav was again a prominent figure.
Most recently, Yadav has expressed his support for the Congress-led Bharat Jodo Yatra that seeks to unite nation against the BJP government’s alleged attempts to ‘divide and rule’.
Baba Ramdev: Yogi who sells FMCG products
Swami Ramdev, known popularly as Baba Ramdev, is a yoga guru and businessman who was among the prominent faces of Team Anna. He has conducted yoga classes worldwide, and was among the forces behind the BJP government’s move to launch an International Yoga Day.
Baba Ramdev is the co-founder of Patanjali Ayurved along with Balkrishna. Today, Balkrishna takes care of the corporate aspects of the FMCG firm, which sells everything from tooth powder to ghee to Ayurvedic medicine. Ramdev is the face of the company, its brand ambassador.
Patanjali Ayurved has been in and out of controversy. There were allegations of tax evasion. It has been charged with substandard quality of products. Randev came in for heavy criticism for promoting the company’s COVID ‘cure’. But none of this has made a dent in its fortunes.
The company is now a listed entity — a multibagger whose value has skyrocketed over 105% in two years.