New Delhi, Aug 22: With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh maintaining that the government is open to dialogue, Anna Hazare today suggested that he should send his representatives for discussion on Jan Lokpal Bill.
Kiran Bedi, one of the leading members of Team Anna, quoted Hazare as saying, “Let the government come forward to discuss the Jan Lokpal bill. Let the PM send his representatives.”
She also ruled out that any negotiations were on between the two groups. “(Talk of) any negotiations are rumours,” Bedi tweeted.
The suggestion came within hours of the Prime Minister saying that 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.
As Hazare's fast demanding a strong Lokpal entered the seventh day, his close associates expressed concern over his deteriorating health.
His team asserted that 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.
Hazare's hunger strike inched close to 150 hours as hundreds poured into Ramlila Maidan to express solidarity with the 73-year-old 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.
“The Prime Minister tells you people (media) that they are ready for talks. But we are asking again and again where do we come? Whom do we meet? Until we don't have a concrete proposal, we cannot react to it,” activist Arvind Kejriwal said.
Asked about Hazare's statement that the government should go if it does not pass the bill by August 30, Kejriwal said Team Anna has no intention to topple the government.
“We have been repeating that our motive is not to topple the government. If the government is so insensitive even on the seventh day of protest and mass gathering, they are saying we will protect corruption and shelter the corrupt...so what is wrong if Hazare said this,” he said.
Stating that they have not changed their stand and they cannot leave the government “free to help corrupt people”, he put the ball in government's court on negotiations saying now the way ahead has to be decided by the government.
“If they have the political will, it will take less than two minutes to pass the bill,” he said.
Government has initiated back-channel negotiations by roping in Additional Chief Secretary of Maharashtra Umesh Chandra Sarangi and spiritual guru Bhaiyyuji Maharaj. Both had a meeting with Hazare and his team yesterday.
Expressing the hope that differences between Hazare and government would be sorted out soon, Maharaj said government was trying “really hard” to find a solution.
The day also witnessed protests outside the residences of Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
The deteriorating health of Hazare has his associates worried. “His weight has come down to 67 kg from 72 kg. His blood pressure is 130/80 and pulse rate 90. Doctors say his health is okay but we are worried,” one of his associates Manish Sisodia said. PTI