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Medha backs, doesn’t join

Patkar (PTI)

Mumbai, Jan. 13: Medha Patkar today announced that her network of grassroots organisations will “actively support” the Aam Aadmi Party but left open the question of formally joining it and contesting elections.

“We have carefully studied the AAP’s documents and we find that the people’s issues concerning jal (water), jungle and zameen (land) are reflected in its political agenda. We find it more open and transparent than other parties,” the 59-year-old social activist told a news conference.

To repeated questions about whether she would formally join the AAP and contest the Lok Sabha polls, the Narmada agitation spearhead said: “I am not averse to wearing the Aam Aadmi Party cap, but let me first let me decide to put it on my head.”

She added that the decision on whether the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) — the network of over 250 grassroots social organisations that she leads — would provide candidates for the AAP as well as their possible constituencies would be taken at a two-day meeting in New Delhi from Thursday.

AAP boss and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal will attend the meeting along with senior colleague Yogendra Yadav, who has been seeking Medha’s support for the party’s national expansion ahead of the summer election.

Patkar said after Yadav met NAPM activists last week and appealed for support, the network’s constituents discussed the issue and concluded that they should “completely and actively support” the AAP.

At the same time, she sought to allay the perception that the political intervention would dilute the network’s thrust on mass movements. “The people’s movement will continue their struggle and identity like before but will also contribute to the AAP’s manifesto. We do not just want to enrol as members but participate in their (AAP’s) political process.”

Asked if support for the AAP was her way of countering Gujarat chief minister and BJP mascot Narendra Modi, Patkar denied that was the case and suggested the focus on the primary issue of resisting dams on the Narmada would be unchanged.

“The Narmada flows through large parts of Madhya Pradesh and a small portion of Gujarat and Maharashtra. We work to save rivers. So, we are not into individual politics of Modi versus Rahul. This is about power versus people. We are not for satta (power) but for satya (truth).”

Asked if she was with Anna Hazare or Kejriwal, Patkar said she was “with both”. “I had told Annaji that Kejriwal’s initiative (to plunge into politics) is also necessary, though Anna was the iconic figure and inspired people as the leader of the anti-corruption movement.”

Medha, who had worked closely with the septuagenarian when he led the Right to Information Act and Jan Lokpal campaigns, said she would discuss with Hazare her support for the AAP and persuade him to back the party.

“Yes, I will discuss with Anna. But he will take his own decision,” Patkar said in response to a question. Former Lokpal comrades Hazare and Kejriwal had parted ways after differences over the formation of a political party.

Patkar said people’s movements like the ones she led strove for non-violent, democratic ways of social and political transformation. She listed central welfare initiatives such as the Rajeev Awaas Yojana, Right to Information Act, and the Forest Rights Act as examples of policies and laws born out such movements.