New Delhi : On the seventh day of his fast, Anna Hazare said Monday he would negotiate with Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) or Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to break the logjam with the union government on the Lokpal bill.
The IBN Lokmat Marathi news channel quoted him as saying that he would not negotiate with any other mediator, including Home Minister P. Chidambaram or Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal.
According to the channel, the 74-year-old activist added in an interview to IBN Lokmat editor Nikhil Wagle that negotiations could not take place with non-government mediators.
“Hazare said that Lokpal bill negotiations cannot happen with non-government mediators and added that he can talk with the Prime Minister’s Office or Rahul. He also added that he was ready to talk with Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan,” according to the CNN-IBN channel.
In a similar development, Hazare’s close aide Kiran Bedi said the activist wanted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to send his representative to hold talks on a stringent legislation that will set up an independent and powerful anti-graft watchdog.
“Anna is saying let the government come forward to discuss the Jan Lokpal bill. Let the PM send his representatives. Any negotiations are rumours,” Bedi tweeted on the microblogging site Twitter.
The prime minister in his address in Kolkata earlier in the day said the government was ready for debate on the Lokpal bill.
Hazare, 74, has been on fast since Aug 16 demanding a stronger Lokpal bill in parliament.
The anti-corruption campaigner also told the Marathi news channel that no official mediator has approached him “till now”.
“He also said he would not speak to anyone without the presence of his advisers,” according to the news channel.
Hazare reiterated his demand that the Lokpal bill introduced by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in parliament should be withdrawn immediately “as it was weak and cannot fight the corruption menace”.
He also hinted at some flexibility on the issue of excluding judiciary under the ombudsman, and said this demand could be discussed during the proposed talks.
He, however, added that a proposed Judicial Accountability Bill must be strengthened if judiciary has to be kept out of the Lokpal’s jurisdiction.
Hazare ruled out any future possibility of negotiating with non-political mediators like spiritual guru Bhayyuji Maharaj and senior bureaucrat from Maharashtra U.C. Sarangi.
The two were said to be involved in back-channel talks with Hazare but he denied it.