He has a good rapport with the anti-corruption crusader

Maharashtra Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Umesh Chandra Sarangi met social activist Anna Hazare in New Delhi to find points of consensus and defuse the situation in the face of the overwhelming support for the Jan Lokpal Bill.

Mr. Sarangi, who was called to Delhi on Thursday, met Mr. Hazare twice. He confirmed to a TV channel that he did meet Anna and enquire about his health. He did not elaborate about the talks. Mr. Sarangi, who shares a good rapport with Mr. Hazare, has dealt with him closely over the past decade.

A Congress party source confirmed the meeting and said that Mr. Sarangi was perhaps the best man to talk to Mr. Hazare since he was Principal Secretary to the former Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, and had dealt with Mr. Hazare during that period. Prior to that, Mr. Sarangi was Commissioner, Cooperation and Registrar of Cooperative Societies, a subject against which Mr. Hazare has raised many issues of corruption and fraud, forcing the government to take cognisance of his complaints.

Mr. Sarangi was involved in talks with Mr. Hazare, mediating on several issues when he was the former Divisional Commissioner of Pune. Often he would be sent to understand Mr. Hazare's demands and place them before the Chief Minister so that a solution could be found.

A native of Orissa, Mr. Sarangi, with a 30-year career, also served as the former Chairperson of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development. The Centre was looking for a person who could talk with Mr. Hazare and meet him on a one-on-one basis. There was a growing concern in Maharashtra about his health as well, said a political observer.

There is a feeling in the Congress that Mr. Hazare is a reasonable person and has, in the past, been open to discussion and negotiation. Mr. Sarangi will have to rely on his intricate knowledge about mediating in Mr. Hazare's agitations from the past to understand where some middle ground can be found.

The Congress also feels that the need of the hour is consensus and not confrontation and sending Mr. Sarangi to meet Mr. Hazare is a step in that direction. The Central government has already made a public announcement that any citizen can come before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Jan Lokpal Bill and offer suggestions, a move clearly aimed at involving the people.

However, there is a feeling within the Congress that Mr. Hazare is surrounded by a group which seems to be intransigent and even the National Campaign for People's Right to Information had expressed reservations about the methods adopted by Anna and his supporters.

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