Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare upped the ante on day seven of his fast, proclaiming that he would only negotiate with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi or Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
Hazare is, apparently, extremely dissatisfied with the level of emissaries sent to him by the government over the past two days. But he also hinted he was willing to accommodate the government on his key demand of bringing the higher judiciary under the Lokpal Bill’s ambit if the Judicial Accountability Bill is strengthened considerably.
The Gandhian social activist sought to set the record straight on behalf of his team by saying that no official mediator has approached him, and Team Anna has further indicated that it wants to deal with emissaries of national stature (so far, the government has fielded emissaries including senior Maharashtra bureaucrat Umesh Chandra Sarangi and spiritual guru Bhayyuji Maharaj).
The government, for its part, is concerned about Hazare’s health after he reportedly lost six kilos in 160 hours of protesting. His close associate Arvind Kejriwal said the ketone level in Hazare's blood and urine has risen slightly, although there is nothing to worry about right now. Another Hazare associate, Kiran Bedi, said that despite Hazare’s condition, no one in the government seems concerned.
Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid, meanwhile, emphasized the importance of dialogue. ‘Talks must take place to resolve this issue,’ he said. ‘The fact that 2 lakh (two hundred thousand) people are protesting is significant. But what the people really want can be decided only through elections.’
The Hazare camp said it had no intention of toppling the United Progressive Alliance government, a necessary clarification after Hazare remarked yesterday that the UPA government had betrayed him at every step, and that it should pass the Jan Lokpal Bill or else go. ‘We have been repeating that our motive is not to topple the Government,’ Kejriwal said.
Still, Kejriwal indicated that civil society isn’t happy.
‘The prime minister says through you (the media) that the government is ready to talk with us,’ he said. ‘We haven’t had any concrete proposal from the government. We will not react until we get a concrete proposal from the government. I request people not to vote for their MPs if they don’t support the Jan Lokpal Bill.’