The Telegraph
Wednesday , February 5 , 2014
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Anna’s aam aurat to counter Kejriwal

Hazare (top) and Mamata

New Delhi, Feb. 4: Mamata Banerjee could be Anna Hazare’s “aam aurat” to counter “aam aadmi” Arvind Kejriwal ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

The social activist, who broke off with disciple Kejriwal, plans to project Mamata as “best suited” for the country’s top post, sources close to Hazare said.

Hazare is likely to announce his intentions in his native village Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra soon, the sources said. Trinamul could also take the lead by releasing a letter from Hazare to Mamata and her “warm reply”.

Hazare and his followers have been sulking ever since Kejriwal sought to ignore the man behind his success and were looking for a credible face to pitch against the ambitious Delhi chief minister.

The social activist had suggested that Kejriwal should focus on providing good governance in Delhi and not bare his “greed” by contesting the Lok Sabha elections.

Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, however, has decided to go all out and announced plans to contest more than 350 Lok Sabha seats.

Mamata was the only politician to reply to Hazare’s letter to leaders of most parties. In May last year, Hazare wrote a letter to the chiefs of all political parties seeking their approval for a 17-point “pro-people economic policy”.

A month ago, Mamata replied through her party colleague Mukul Roy in a very “warm tone”, endorsing all the proposals made by Hazare. This set the ball rolling, leading to phone conversations and a few meetings, and the political strategy took shape.

“Mamata is a much better representative of a commoner than Arvind Kejriwal. Kejriwal has moved into a government bungalow but Mamata still lives in her humble house. Kejriwal has turned greedy for power,” said a source close to Hazare.

Hazare has suggested that Mamata should field candidates across the country to emerge as an alternative to the mainstream parties, including the rookie AAP. The social activist has offered to extend all support, including credible candidates, and said that he could also campaign for “Mamata for Prime Minister”.

“Mamata has a better record of a commoner than Kejriwal. If Anna, who commands a lot of moral authority, endorses her, she will emerge as a big challenge to the so-called third front and other parties,” said an activist close to Hazare.

Trinamul leaders were tightlipped about the larger political strategy over aligning with Hazare but acknowledged the exchange of letters.

“Anna Hazare makes constructive suggestions to Mamatadi. She responds warmly. Watch this space…” Trinamul MP Derek O’Brien tweeted today.

Contacted O’Brien confirmed the exchange of letters. “Anna Hazare wrote a letter to Mamata Banerjee outlining certain issues, proposals and suggestions for governance. Then Trinamul wrote back that many of the issues already figure in the party manifesto and the new suggestions would be incorporated,” he said.

Others said Mamata could use the backing of Hazare as a reply to the efforts being made by the Left to cobble together a front and isolate her in the national arena.

Some sources said plans have been drawn to field “credible candidates” from every Lok Sabha seat where the AAP contests.

Mamata’s newfound love for Hazare marks a turnaround. In December 2011, the chief minister had left a CNN-IBN programme where she would have had to share a dais with Hazare had she stayed. Trinamul was then part of the UPA and Hazare was at the peak of his popularity after his fast for the Jan Lokpal bill.

However, sources close to Mamata had then said she left because her mother, who passed away later that month, was unwell and there was no other reason.