Salman Khurshid asked me to keep meeting secret, I agreed: Anna Hazare

Ralegan Siddhi / New Delhi: Activist Anna Hazare has written to the Prime Minister stating, “We don’t want to talk to anyone from your government now.”  In his note, Anna, who is 75, accuses the government of trying to engineer a fault-line in his group of activists, usually referred to as Team Anna.

The Gandhian’s letter also confirms that he met privately with Law Minister Salman Khurshid on June 23 near Pune. Separately, at a press conference in his village of Ralegan Siddhi on Wednesday evening,  Anna shared how the meeting was organized and what was discussed.  He said the minister had asked him to keep their session confidential as far as the media was concerned, and he agreed.  But now, Anna said, was the right time to go public.

That could be because sources say his closest aides are upset for not letting them know about his appointment with Mr Khurshid till very recently.  This has them worried that the government is trying to ring-fence Anna.  The activist said that Mr Khurshid sought his opinions on the Lokpal Bill, an anti-graft legislation championed by Anna through a series of rallies and hunger strikes.  Anna also claims that the minister urged him not to participate in an indefinite hunger strike that his aides are launching on July 25 in Delhi.

Government sources say that Mr Khurshid informed the PM upon his return from Pune about his meeting with Anna.

In May, Team Anna publicly accused Mr Khurshid and 14 other senior ministers, as also the prime minister, of corruption. They asked Dr Manmohan Singh to commission an independent inquiry against each of the ministers they listed. The government has refused, prompting Team Anna to announce a  hunger strike that will begin next week at Jantar Mantar in the capital.

Anna has also complained to the Prime Minister about a letter addressed to him by minister of state in the prime minister’s office, V Narayansamy.    In that note, Mr Narayansamy said  he wanted to thank Anna for the help extended by him to the government on the Lokpal Bill.   Anna’s aides say this proves that the government wants  them to suspect him of a secret dialogue with the government.  Anna seemed to agree with this theory- he said that the letter was delivered to his team and not to him, proving that the government’s intent was to unnerve his camp.

Another major concern for Anna’s inner circle is what they read as his increasing willingness for a public partnership with Baba Ramdev, the yoga icon.The activists say that they were not in favour of the sort of collaboration that has developed with Baba Ramdev, who is lobbying the government to recover black money or undeclared income sent by Indians to foreign bank accounts. Team Anna believes that Baba Ramdev , who is closely linked to the BJP, will allow the party to gain currency from Anna’s movement.

The Lokpal Bill that has been the focus of Anna’s attention was passed by the Lok Sabha last year, but did not clear the Rajya Sabha. It is now being studied by a parliamentary committee. The bill creates a national ombudsman with the powers to investigate complaints of corruption against government servants.

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