"Meeting with Salman Khurshid not kept secret"

In a development that will have repercussions for the already strained Team Anna-government relationship and the future of the Lokpal Bill, Anna Hazare on Wednesday said Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid had indeed engaged him in talks, persuading him to keep it a secret even from his team members.

What prompted the revelation was the fact that Minister of State in the PMO V. Narayanasami informed the other members of Team Anna of the ‘secret meeting’.

“I fell prey to the hope that something good will come out of this for the society. This proves yet again that the government is trying to create a rift between the members of Team Anna,” Mr. Hazare told a press conference here. The only member who knew about his meeting with Mr. Khurshid was Arvind Kejriwal, who was present at the press conference.

In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr. Hazare accused him and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi of being part of a conspiracy to malign Team Anna. “What is the future of the country whose leaders have such bad character? It is a matter of concern for the people of India that its leaders are involved in such a conspiracy,” says the letter.

Mr. Hazare said he was approached by Shiv Sena MP Rajkumar Dhoot to be part of a meeting with Mr. Khurshid, held in a guest house run by industrialist Abhay Firodia in Khed taluk near Pune on June 23. According to Mr. Hazare, Mr. Khurshid said the three demands of Team Anna on the Lokpal issue — having a citizen’s charter, the provision for a Lokayukta in all States and inclusion of the CBI under the Lokpal — would be approved by the Prime Minister. In return, he requested Mr. Hazare to keep the meeting a secret from the media, the public and his team members. “He told me that after a detailed meeting with the Prime Minister and Ms. Sonia Gandhi we would hold a joint press conference and make the announcement of a strong Lokpal bill,” Mr. Hazare said.

However, Mr. Hazare raised the doubt with Mr. Khurshid about the implementation of the plan, as the draft of the Lokpal Bill was already with the select committee, “I wanted to know how the government would make changes in the draft which was already with the select committee but I did not get a reply.”

Meanwhile, on July 16 Mr. Narayanasami sent a letter to Mr. Hazare stating, “I have informed the Prime Minister about your recent efforts to create a public opinion on the issue of Lokpal [Bill].” Mr. Hazare said this letter was “hand-delivered” to his team members who did not know about the meeting with Mr. Khurshid, thus breaching his trust.

Asked if he had fallen into a trap laid by the government, Mr. Hazare told The Hindu: “I went in the hope that something good will come out for the society. I had no selfish motives but we have learnt that hope is a bad thing. I fell prey.”

Pointing out that he had now learnt his lesson and recognised the “conspiracy” hatched by the government, Mr. Hazare said in the letter that Team Anna would not talk to any Minister henceforth.

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