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Team Anna snubs govt 'negotiator'

Senior Maharashtra bureaucrat Umesh Chandra Sarangi, who has been trying to open back channel negotiations with Anna Hazare for the last three days, returned disappointed because of the ‘my way or the highway’ attitude of Team Anna. Debasish Panigrahi reports.

mumbai Updated: Aug 23, 2011 02:24 IST
Debasish Panigrahi

Senior Maharashtra bureaucrat Umesh Chandra Sarangi, who has been trying to open back channel negotiations with Anna Hazare for the last three days, returned disappointed because of the ‘my way or the highway’ attitude of Team Anna.

Sarangi, 59, a 1977 batch IAS officer, got acquainted with Hazare in the 1980s, when the former was handling farmers and co-operative sector problems. Over the years, the duo developed a good rapport and mutual trust.

The additional chief secretary (home) had resolved several agitations in Maharashtra under former chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, when Hazare had either gone on fast or threatened to do so. In April too, when Hazare had gone on a fast, Sarangi’s backchannel efforts had succeeded in breaking the logjam.

But this time, three rounds of talks failed to break the ice as Hazare refused to climb down from his original stand. Sarangi held two rounds of talks with Hazare on Saturday and Sunday.

On Monday evening, after they met for the third time, Sarangi returned empty-handed. Sources said the bureaucrat felt humiliated by Team Anna’s arrogance.

“The proximity did not work this time because some people controlled Anna like a puppet,” a senior official in the Union home ministry said on condition of anonymity.

Sarangi reportedly faced frequent interruptions from Hazare’s colleagues Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan. “The discussions between him and Anna did not really take off because of Anna’s team,” the official said.

Sarangi is believed to have briefed union minister Kapil Sibal about his unsavoury experience, pushing Sibal to demand that the Team Anna be left out during talks with Hazare.

Sarangi was unavailable for comment. But the government is still banking on Sarangi. “He may be required in Delhi any moment,” said another official who did not wish to be named.

(With agency inputs)