Cong says it's ready to talk to Team Anna if approached

An indication to this effect was available after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired an hour-long meeting with senior ministers to take stock of the situation arising out of Anna Hazare’s fast at Ramlila Ground.

Highly placed sources in the party said they have no problem in holding negotiations with the civil society group led by Hazare if they express readiness for the same.
A number of party leaders, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said the government should re-engage Team Anna in talks.

The hour-long meeting of the Congress Core Committee, chaired by the prime minister was attended by all other members including Union Ministers Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram, A K Antony and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel. The meeting came against the backdrop of Hazare setting a deadline of August 30 for the government to get the Jan Lokpal bill passed in Parliament, failing which he decided to continue his fast “till my last breath”.

Differences surface
Differences within Congress over the way Anna Hazare issue was handled came to the fore on Saturday with East Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit stating that the Gandhian should not have been arrested and adverse comments made against him could have been avoided. Asked whether Hazare’s arrest was wrong, Dikhit replied in the affirmative.
“It was wrong on the part of Delhi police. I would not say it was the decision of UPA government. But I think it was wrong on the part of Delhi police to arrest him,” he told reporters.

Earlier, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indicated his willingness to end the stand-off, saying he was ready for “give and take” to strengthen the anti-corruption legislation. Meanwhile, the parliamentary panel examining the draft Lokpal bill has invited suggestions from the public.

However, the government virtually rejected the August 30 deadline set by Hazare and his team for passing the civil society’s Jan Lokpal bill, saying the legislative process could take longer than that.

The development came as the parliamentary standing committee came out with newspaper advertisements seeking people’s opinions on the legislation. Team Anna trashed the advertisement as an attention-diverting tactic and dubbed the government's draft bill as “Promotion of Corruption Bill”.

Anna mocks Cong charge

New Delhi, Agencies: Social activist Anna Hazare, on a hunger strike to press for a more inclusive Lokpal bill, has taken strong exception to the suggestion that his crusade against corruption is backed by the RSS and the BJP.

“Those who suggest that RSS and BJP are backing this protest should be sent to a mental hospital,” Hazare told reporters on the fifth day of his fast. “Tomorrow they will say that Pakistan is backing the protest.”

He added that the Congress had already charged his movement with US-backing.
To a query, Anna’s associate Arvind Kejriwal said the government was using the parliamentary standing committee as a shield: “If they want to bring a strong Lokpal bill, they should not resort to the argument that it is being examined by the committee.” 

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