PMO goof link to Anna-Arvind split

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 15.11.14
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New Delhi, Nov. 14: Why Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal parted ways two years ago has remained a mystery. One probable reason could be a blunder by the Prime Minister’s Office during UPA II rule.

After a secret meeting between Hazare and then foreign minister Salman Khurshid, the PMO had apparently sent a letter meant for Hazare to Kejriwal’s home by mistake.

Hazare had indeed given that address for communication but the PMO seemed not to have realised that a secret letter should be delivered to Hazare directly at his village.

Sources aware of the goof-up revealed that Kejriwal got suspicious as Hazare was not supposed to receive any letter from the PMO.

They said he opened it to discover that his mentor had struck a pact with the Congress. The letter mentioned Hazare’s hush-hush meeting with Khurshid in Pune and thanked him for his willingness to campaign for the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

A furious Kejriwal revealed Khurshid’s secret mission before the media and accused the Manmohan Singh government of trying to drive a wedge between him and Hazare.

Khurshid was shocked at the premature unravelling of the plot but denied having met Hazare.

It’s not clear whether this purported incident would be part of the book Khurshid is writing on the UPA II government. But he has confirmed he would deal with the complex personalities of both Hazare and Kejriwal in the chapter about the anti-corruption agitation in 2011-12 that damaged the Congress beyond repair.

Titled The Other Side of the Mountain, the book will primarily try to establish that the UPA II government had been a victim of false propaganda and that the allocations of 2G spectrum and coal blocks were not scams at all.

Khurshid had met Hazare in Pune, where the activist allegedly conceded that Kejriwal had misled him and showed an inclination to campaign for the Congress.

Hazare was keen on keeping the meeting under wraps and asked Khurshid to deny it if the media asked questions. “You can lie in the larger national interest,” he had apparently suggested.

Sources said that both Hazare and Khurshid had had to tell stories to those around them to create the opportunity for the clandestine meeting.

Hazare had apparently told his aides and Kiran Bedi, who was with him in Pune at the time, that he was going to meet a saint who wouldn’t entertain any companions. He even left his security behind.

Khurshid told the policemen escorting him that his wife’s aunt had died and that he should be left alone to make a trip connected to a personal tragedy.

The meeting helped Khurshid explain the government’s point of view to the man who had stirred the nation against the Congress.

Hazare was anyway happy with the government decision to pass the Lokpal bill and didn’t want to endorse Kejriwal’s tough line on what he had termed a “Jokepal”. Khurshid convinced Hazare about Kejriwal’s political ambitions.

Khurshid was supposed to get a letter from Manmohan Singh requesting Hazare to campaign for the Congress. It was eventually decided that Manmohan should not get involved and the PMO should handle the matter.

V. Narayansamy, the minister in the PMO, drafted the letter and got it despatched by staff.

After the controversy exploded, Khurshid denied the meeting but Hazare admitted to it. However, the activist publicly declared that no government could influence him to campaign for any party.

He went into his shell, breaking away from Kejriwal as a wall of mistrust grew between the onetime mentor and his then protégé.

When reached for comment, Kejriwal’s press secretary said on Friday evening that he would get back but did not do so. When The Telegraph called again, there was no response.