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Anna flashes skip signal

Mumbai, Dec. 25: Anna Hazare is unlikely to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Arvind Kejriwal slated for Saturday, aides said today, citing health grounds.

“Annaji has not received any invite so far. In any case, after the nine-day fast (over the Lokpal bill before it was passed by Parliament), doctors have advised him rest to regain energy. It is unlikely he will travel to New Delhi for the swearing-in ceremony,” said a Hazare aide from Maharashtra hometown Ralegan Siddhi.

Kejriwal had said this morning that the invite to Hazare would be sent once the swearing-in date was finalised. “How can we invite without a date for the ceremony yet to be final?” the Delhi chief minister-designate said.

Hours later, the date was firmed up after President Pranab Mukherjee gave his consent to Delhi lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung’s proposal to invite the Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to form the government with the support of the Congress.

Kejriwal will be sworn in at noon on Saturday at Ramlila Maidan where he and Hazare had spearheaded the 13-day fast in August 2011 over the Jan Lokpal bill.

Late this evening, Kejriwal’s senior AAP colleague Kumar Vishwas said invitations would be sent to Hazare, Kiran Bedi and Santosh Hegde.

The uncertainty over Hazare’s presence comes against the backdrop of his differences with Kejriwal that accentuated after the activist accepted the Lokpal bill passed by Parliament last week.

Kejriwal and his associates had opposed the draft on the ground that the bill did not include three key demands made during the 2011 agitation. Kejriwal had also expressed surprise at Anna accepting the government’s version of the bill.

Hazare had said he was happy with the changes made by the Rajya Sabha select committee, and urged those who disagreed to continue protests to strengthen the bill.

Hazare’s recent nine-day fast, which he called off after the bill was passed, was his fourth such protest over the bill.

He had a long list of those he thanked while ending his recent nine-day fast — his fourth over the bill — last week but he did not mention Kejriwal, once part of the Lokpal movement before he set up the AAP.

The septuagenarian had thanked the Congress and the BJP for taking the initiative in getting the bill passed, his doctors and even the pandal-maker who had built the fast stage. He had hailed the Rajya Sabha select committee for strengthening the provisions of the bill from its initial draft.