Truce nears; Anna wants direct talks

Last Updated: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - 00:18

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: On the seventh day of Anna Hazare`s fast on Monday, both sides – Team Anna as well as the UPA government – appeared ready for a dialogue on the controversial Lokpal issue but with riders.

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said his government was willing to have a "reasoned debate" on the issue, Gandhian Hazare said the PM should send a representative to hold talks.

The fasting Hazare however added that he would negotiate only with Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, the Prime Minister`s Office (PMO) or Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

Kiran Bedi, one of the leading members of Team Anna, quoted Hazare as saying
that "let the government come forward to discuss the Jan Lokpal bill. Let the PM send his representatives".

A senior Marathi journalist Nikhil Wagle, who met the 73-year-old Gandhian, quoted him as saying that Lokpal Bill negotiations cannot happen with non-government mediators.

In a late night development, spiritual leader Bhayyuji Maharaj is understood to have submitted a fresh proposal to Team Anna to end the standoff.

The fresh proposal was sent across to Hazare after Maharaj, who conducted parleys with the Gandhian and government, met with Union ministers Kapil Sibal and
Salman Khurshid.

The content of the proposal was not immediately known.

Hazare meanwhile today reiterated his demand that the Lokpal Bill introduced by the government in Parliament should be withdrawn immediately "as it was weak and cannot fight the corruption menace".

Earlier, the Prime Minister said the government is open to a "reasoned debate" on the Lokpal Bill and that the Parliamentary panel examining it can propose changes.

"We are open to a reasoned debate on all these issues," Singh said at the golden jubilee function of the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata.

Hazare`s hunger strike crossed 150 hours as hundreds of people poured into Ramlila Maidan to express solidarity with the Gandhian who began his indefinite fast in police custody on August 16.

As his protest continued, Team Anna said they were yet to hear from the government side on the talks. "(Talk of) any negotiations are rumours," Bedi tweeted.

"Anna is fasting for the cause of this country. We are peacefully protesting here....We will not get up from here," Bedi said and demanded the Prime Minister should come to Ramlila Maidan and listen to them.

"The Prime Minister should ensure passage of Jan Lokpal Bill and then only the intention of what he said could come true," she said referring to Singh`s remarks on corruption and its eradication.

Team Anna also asserted they have no intention to topple the government but defended the Gandhian`s remarks that it should go if the bill is not passed by August 30.

Another close aide, Arvind Kejriwal said "we are inviting the government or any party, if they have any doubt, they can come and discuss it with us here in front of everyone."

Wagle also said the Gandhian was ready to be flexible on the inclusion of higher judiciary if the government brings a strong Judicial Accountability Bill.

Meanwhile, informed sources said Hazare has also indicated that he would be flexible on the inclusion of the Prime Minister under the anti-corruption law but wanted direct talks with the government.

(With PTI/IANS inputs)

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First Published: Monday, August 22, 2011 - 14:31

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