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Monday , April 23 , 2012
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Transparency pitch backfires on Team Anna

Kiran Bedi (top) and Mufti Shameem Kazmi in Noida on Sunday. (Pictures by Prem Singh and PTI)

New Delhi, April 22: Team Anna today expelled a core committee member on the charge of secretly audio-recording a meeting, a move steeped in irony given that the group had earlier demanded live telecast of its sessions with the government on the proposed Lokpal bill.

Mufti Shameem Kazmi’s drama-drenched expulsion came in the middle of a meeting. It bared deep cracks within the core committee over Anna Hazare’s allegedly unilateral decision to join hands with yoga practitioner Ramdev, who has known Hindutva leanings.

First, Kazmi stormed out of the Noida meeting to claim he had quit the anti-corruption movement because it was turning “anti-Muslim”.

Next, Team Anna members came out to announce his expulsion for allegedly taping the meeting with the motive of leaking the proceedings to the media.

“He (Kazmi) was caught red-handed recording the proceedings.... When we asked him to apologise and delete the audio clips, he made a scene and walked out,” core committee member Kumar Vishwas told reporters.

Kazmi denied the charge and accused Team Anna members Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia of running the movement like “dictators”.

“I made no audio clips. It seems to be a design to oust me from the team. I was the lone Muslim member in the team and now I am out of it,” Kazmi said.

He did not elaborate on his “anti-Muslim” charge against the movement but denied having any problems with the Hazare-Ramdev association.

Team Anna members struggled to play down the irony of the situation, having last year insisted on live telecast of the meetings of the Lokpal bill drafting committee, which included Hazare and two associates.

Asked about the apparent contradiction, Sisodia argued that recording the team’s meeting was not improper but doing it secretly was.

“We would have allowed Kazmi to record the meeting had he taken the team’s permission. But doing it secretly was improper,” Sisodia said.

He acknowledged that he and the other members had got Kazmi to delete the recordings. Asked why they had done so, Sisodia said: “The recordings were of a very normal discussion between the team members; so we deleted it.”

Other Team Anna sources, however, said the group was particularly worried about today’s proceedings getting out in public as the meeting witnessed sharp differences over Hazare’s recent joint appearance with Ramdev.

Hazare and Ramdev had one-to-one talks on Friday and held a news conference together to announce cooperation. Team Anna members had played the development down claiming the duo would “cooperate” but not have any “joint action”. Today’s meeting was held to discuss the subject.

Insiders said Kazmi had recorded a spat between leading Hazare aides over allegations of association with BJP chief ministers and leaders. Further, team members accused each other of having political ambitions, they added.

This is the third instance of a break-up within Hazare’s group. Swami Agnivesh had had to leave after a video clipping purportedly showed him making remarks critical of Hazare.

Before that, P.V. Rajagopal and Rajinder Singh quit the team over differences about the way decisions were being taken.