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Taking the political plunge, Team Anna today moved towards forming a party to fight the 2014 Lok Sabha polls but Anna Hazare made it clear that he will not launch a party or contest elections. Ending their ten-day fast at Jantar Mantar, the team declared that "people" will decide on their candidates and fund their elections.
"We will have to throw this government out. It is a long fight. This is not a party. It will be a movement from the streets to Parliament.
"Parliament has to be purified. There will be no high command. People will decide the candidates and they will fund it," Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal announced to the cheering supporters.
He said they will not draft manifesto in air-conditioned rooms but would go around the country to know about the difficulties of people.
Today's declaration by Team Anna marks a transformation of the civil society movement which started as an anti-corruption crusade 16 months ago for a Lokpal Bill and ending up with plans for a political run.
The fast, which was ended by former Army chief Gen V K Singh giving cocunut water to Hazare and others, was called off in the light of government steadfastly refusing to enter into a dialogue with them on their demand for Lokpal or a special investigation team of retired judges to probe allegations against 15 Union Ministers.
Endorsing Kejriwal's declaration for a political alternative, Hazare said he will not launch a party or fight elections.
"I will go around the country for the next one and half years to give an alternative. We have another two years left (for the elections) and I will awaken the people. I am confident that people will support the alternative," he said.
Justifying formation of a political outfit, Hazare said that earlier when they started the movement political parties taunted them saying you contest elections and come to Parliament.
"Now when we announce that we are taking the political plunge the same parties are feeling threatened," he said.
Though Kejriwal did not use the word political party in relation to launch of the movement, at another place he said that if a party has to be launched, then they have to decide what structure it should have.
"Our aim is not to take power but to go inside Parliament and transfer power to villages, cities and to the people. It does not mean an end to street protests. The movement will continue inside Parliament as well as streets," he said.
Raising the question as to where the money would come from, Kejriwal answered himself saying "money is not needed. People will give money."
The highlight of the day was former Army chief V K Singh's address to the rally when he said governance has come to an end and has become directionless.
"I thank Anna Hazare and others for heeding to our appeal and ending the fast. Other than the big issue of corruption, the issues which are concerning the nation are black money, law and order, weakening rupee and inflation. There is no governance and it has become directionless," he said.
Hazare said he was encouraged by the fact that people like Gen V K Singh have extended support to the civil society movement.
In his speech, Kejriwal said they would not go for the "movement" if the Congress passed Lokpal Bill, provide for 'right to recall' and 'right to reject' in the next two and half years.
"We are not here for power. We want Lokpal Bill to be passed. If all these are implemented, we will take back our decision," he said.
Kejriwal said the aim of the movement was not to capture power but to ensure its decentralisation. He also appealed to people who are "suffocated" in parties like Congress and BJP to join the movement.
He said the movement is not for just winning elections but to change the system and challenge existing political parties on each and every step.
"We are challening the high command of parties, if you have the guts to leave the selection of candidates to people, show it," he said.
Gopal Rai, another Team Anna member who was fasting, said they will not leave any way to fight the system. "If needed, we will fight for Parliament," he said.
'Political alternative' next step for Team Anna?
Earlier on Friday, Team Anna said its political alternative will not compromise on corruption, holding their fight is for changing the system and not power.
"Anna is a hero of people. How long he can remain deaf to the voice of people? He has taken a decision to challenge the political class," a statement posted on the India Against Corruption website said.
"Now Team Anna is ready to enter the battlefield of politics. Now Team Anna is ready to enter the battleground to take on government. Anna has said that he will not dilute his beliefs. The political alternative that will come up will not compromise on corruption. This fight is not for changing power but changing system," it said.
It said political parties continue to say that Anna and his supporters will not be able to win elections and to counter such claims, it is necessary to talk about political alternative.
"Team Anna has sounded the bugle to enter the political battlefield and take on political parties. Now people have to take a decision whether the corrupt system will continue to exploit you or support a right alternative," it said.
Swami Agnivesh has also slammed out at Team Anna for deciding to break its fast and go political.
Team Anna always wanted to be in power: Cong
"Anna has broken the sanctity of 'anshan' (fast). Anshan is always the last option. This is a black day," Agnivesh said.
However, a word of caution came from Medha Patkar, a member of Team Anna's Core Committee who made a single appearance at the Jantar Mantar protest this time.
"One has to ensure that people who are awakened remained so and one has to think a 100 times before taking a plunge into electoral politics. If he joins politics, then the momentum gained should not be lost. When people with noble intentions join politics, either they don't last long or they don't achieve much," she said.
Team Anna member Kiran Bedi defended the move, saying Hazare's call is that he will help identify good and ethical people so that they could make it to politics.
Continuing its tirade against Team Anna for stating that it is considering a political alternative, Congress on Friday said the members always wanted to be in power.
"Congress has been continuously telling for the past one year that Anna (Hazare) and his team is interested in politics and they always wanted to be in power," Congress leader and Union shipping minister GK Vasan told reporters in New Delhi.
On the other hand, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Nitin Gadkari on Friday welcomed Anna Hazare and his team's announcement to enter the political arena but stressed that it could not become an alternative to his party.
Team Anna cannot be alternative to BJP: Gadkari
In an interview to NDTV news channel, Gadkari said the BJP supports "anyone who's against corruption, be it Anna Hazare or Baba Ramdev. If Anna seeks our support, we will help".
He said Team Anna could not become an alternative to the BJP but the Congress could.
He also said his party did not face any threat from this new group.