In a small, dimly lit room inside a flat in Delhi’s Mayur Vihar, a group of 20-somethings sat around a small television set, hurriedly taking notes as a smug Congress party held press meets as an open challenge to Round 2 of the State versus Anna Hazare duel. In their midst, flopped on a chair, in this modest, hometurned- war room, was Anna Hazare, and beside him, Arvind Kejriwal. Time for the muscle-flexing WWF-style political akhada. But even before D-day, it was amply clear that the theatre of war was going to open with Hazare’s arrest.
All of this was factored in by the A team and carefully planned. It’s what made former supercop and A-Team member Kiran Bedi compare it with Obama’s war-room that won him the presidential election. Whether you call this band of warriors fascists or freedom fighters, middle-class angst-ridden youth or misanthropes, one thing can’t be denied: they have displayed might and motivation. Enough to have hogged all the news space for over a week. Enough to shackle the government and bring it to its knees. Enough to make the story of how they got here, at the very least, fascinating to tell.
The most important member of the A-Team isn’t just Anna. It’s Arvind. A former IRS officer, Magsaysay Award winner and RTI activist, who last year watched the nth report on the bungling in the 2010 Commonwealth Games and decided that something had to be done. Ironically, his journey to the Jan Lokpal team began with co-travellers who have now clearly distanced themselves from him. Aruna Roy, Shekhar Singh and the National Commission for the People’s Right to Information. On 19 September 2010, this group had a meeting to collectively channelise the people’s growing angst against corruption and articulate a way out, to reverse the hungry tide of political and corporate gluttony, now belching forth in a scam a day. And so it was Aruna Roy who asked Kejriwal to draft a Whistleblowers’ Protection Bill and also work on an anti-corruption law.