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Aug 25, 2011 at 05:27pm IST

Anna sticks to his demands, PM calls meeting

New Delhi: The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government on Thursday reached out directly to Anna Hazare with Union Science and Technology Minister and former Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh meeting him with a message from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Deshmukh met Hazare just a few hours after sources told CNN-IBN that the 74-year-old anti-corruption crusader wanted to negotiate directly with the Government and talk to a leader from Maharashtra.

"A lot of people from Maharashtra have met me and asked me to request Annaji to end his fast. I went to meet Anna to inquire his health and requested him to end fast following the appeal by Parliament and the Prime Minister. So I went there," said Deshmukh when asked about his meeting with Hazare.

Hazare's close associate Manish Sisodia said that he (Hazare) has sent his reply to the Prime Minister's message.

"Vilasrao Deshmukh met Anna Hazare with a message from the Prime Minister. Annaji has replied and it has been sent to the Prime Minister. When the reply from the Prime Minister comes, Anna will address you and," Sisodia told the crowd at Ramlila Maidan.

Sources say that in his reply Hazare has stuck to his demands for inclusion of lower bureaucracy, lokayukta in all states through the same legislation and immediate discussion on Jan Lokpal Bill in Parliament.

Sources add that Deshmukh told Hazare that entire Parliament has given him the assurance and requested him to end his fast but he (Hazare) is adamant on a written assurance.

The Prime Minister has also called a meeting of senior ministers at 6 PM at his 7 Race Course Road to discuss Anna Hazare's fast and the Lokpal issue. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is leading the Government team in negotiations with Team Anna, Home Minister P Chidambaram, Defence Minister AK Antony, Law Minister Salman Khurshid will be attending the meeting.

Hazare is reportedly ready to negotiate directly with the Government to end the deadlock over the Lokpal issue. His associates from Maharashtra told CNN-IBN that Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi are proving to be main hurdles to talks.

The associates, who have worked with Hazare for many years, say that the Government has agreed to almost 80 per cent of his demands and this is the right time to talks directly with the Government.

There is also a feeling that Kiran Bedi's tweets are creating confusion.

A group of Hazare supporters have also expressed their concern over his falling health and feel that the fast and agitation cannot be continued for an indefinite period of time. Hazare's fast entered its 10th day on August 25 and he has almost 6.5 kg.

Sources say that the crisis can be resolved if any credible political leader speaks to Hazare. He is reportedly ready to talk to any leader from Maharashtra, including Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

Social workers from Maharashtra who have been involved in many agitations launched by Hazare say that he wants a strong Lokpal Bill and assurances by the Government on the entire process related to the Bill. He wants a political solution to the anti-corruption agitation and is ready to negotiate with a leader like Chavan who has a clean record.

Sources say that Hazare is willing to consider breaking his fast or at least go on drip if there is a political assurance. However, he wants the clause by clause talks to go on with his associates who are more familiar with the details.

Meanwhile, Team Anna's core committee is meeting to decide its strategy after the Prime Minister applauded Anna Hazare and the Lok Sabha appealed to him to end his 10-day-old fast.

Earlier, the Prime Minister requested Hazare to end his fast while addressing the Lok Sabha and said that Parliament will pass a strong Lokpal Bill.

"I applaud Anna, I salute Anna. I would urge Anna to end this fast. I request all to request Anna that his point has been registered and we will take note of it," said the Prime Minister.

Giving due respect to Anna Hazare's cause, Manmohan Singh said, "I want Jan Lokpal Bill to be given due consideration by the Parliamentary Standing Committee".

"We will find effective ways and means to discuss Jan Lokpal Bill along with the Government's version of the Bill, along with Aruna Roy's and Jayaprakash Narayan's. All ideas should be discussed and debated to get best possible bill to help us deal with corruption," Singh said.