New Delhi: Speculation was rife on Sunday about back-room negotiations to resolve differences between Centre and Anna Hazare after a senior Maharashtra government official met the Gandhian here but his team ruled out any compromise on its demand for bringing Prime Minister and higher judiciary within Lokpal's ambit.

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Maharashtra Additional Chief Secretary Umesh Chandra Sarangi visited Hazare last night at the Ramlila Maidan, where he is on an indefinite hunger strike demanding a strong Lokpal, a meeting described by Team Anna as "personal" while maintaining that "no compromise formula" was discussed.

The meeting between the official and the 73-year-old anti-corruption crusader figured in on Sunday's meeting of Hazare's Core Committee, sources in Team Anna said.

Attended by Hazare, the meeting decided not to climb down from its position on bringing the Prime Minister and higher judiciary in Lokpal's ambit but kept its door open for negotiations if the government "earns their trust" by withdrawing the Lokpal Bill from Parliament.

Justice Santosh Hegde, former Karnataka Lokayukta and a close associate of Hazare, who proposed that the Team could think of giving up their demands on Prime Minister and higher judiciary provided other key demands are met, also attended the meeting, the sources said.

After the Core Committee meeting, Hegde held another round of discussions with key members of Team Anna. The sources said the issue with regard to the Prime Minister and judiciary was also discussed at the meeting but the activists finally decided against lowering their bar.

"We are open for talks. In order to open a door for dialogue, the government has to create an atmosphere. They have to create an atmosphere of trust by withdrawing the government bill from Parliament and introduce Jan Lokpal Bill. We will not budge from our stand. This is the least they should do to earn our trust," Swami Agnivesh, a Core Committee member, said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's remarks that there was "a lot of scope for give and take" and that the government was open to "discussion and dialogue" was being seen as a positive move from the government side, the sources said.

The meeting was attended by Hazare's close associates Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Shanti Bhushan and Manish Sisodia. Activist Medha Patkar was also present.

Team Anna took stock of the situation as well as deliberated on the future course of action, activists said.     Both government and Team Anna on Saturday spoke of the need for a dialogue on the Lokpal issue.

Hazare had on Friday raised the political stakes by giving a deadline to the government to pass the Jan Lokpal bill by August 30 failing which he would continue his fast "till my last breath".

Door not closed for dialogue: Hazare

Earlier in the morning, Anna Hazare said his campaign has not closed the door of dialogue with government, a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated it was open for discussion.

"We have not closed the door of dialogue. We have kept it open. Only through dialogue the issues can be resolved," he told his supporters at Ramlila Ground on sixth day of his fast.

His close associates referred to the Prime Minister's readiness to discuss the issue and said so far no proposal has come from the government.

"With whom and where should we discuss what," Arvind Kejriwal, a key aide of Hazare, said announcing the five decisions taken at the core committee meeting of 'India
Against Corruption' this morning.

Both Hazare and Kejriwal also asked their supporters to hold dharnas in front of houses of MPs in their constituencies and demand written commitments in support of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

"The dharna should also cover Ministers and leaders of various political parties," they said. Kejriwal said a 'maha rally' will be held on Sunday from India Gate to Ramlila Maidan in support of 73-year-old Hazare's movement and tomorrow the Ramzan and Janmashtami fast will be broken together at the ground in solidarity with the Gandhian's campaign.

Making it clear that he will not budge from his stand of getting the Jan Lokpal Bill passed in Parliament, Hazare said even if the Prime Minister is covered, he will not end his campaign.

"Even if the Prime Minister is covered, the Jan Lokpal Bill has to be passed. Till Jan Lokpal Bill is passed, we will not go back on our mission," he said.

Taking a jibe at the critics of his movement, Hazare said, "People's parliament is higher than the national Parliament.

"We send MPs as trustees of the treasury but they go there and start looting peoples' money. But now people who are the masters have awakened. Now we have to send several of these corrupt ministers out of power and to jails," he said.

"The Prime Minister had said that the government is open for dialogue but till now we have not received any communication from the government," Kejriwal said.

Hazare lauded the fact that people from all faiths and creeds have come to support him. He also praised the media's role in highlighting the issue.

"The media has driven the movement to every home and the public has risen in protest," he said, with a word of praise for the protesters for keeping the movement peaceful which he called "unprecedented".

He was all praise for the youth who have joined the anti-corruption movement and expressed confidence that with the youth power, the "revolution" will be able to demolish corruption through the enactment of a strong Lokpal.

Hazare came to the podium at around 10 AM as supporters started pouring into Ramlila Maidan where he launched his protest on Friday after coming out of Tihar Jail.

After reaching the podium, Hazare "thanked" people for extending whole-hearted support to his campaign against corruption.

"I thank all of you for coming here and supporting the movement," the anti-corruption crusader said in a brief comment. A large number of people observing the Ramzan fast have also thronged the Ramlila Maidan over the past few days to join Hazare's fast against corruption.

Hazare's protest site was on Sunday also visited by Delhi Mayor Rajni Abbi, who inspected the conditions on the grounds. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi was criticised earlier after the ground was swollen by rain.

Abbi said the MCD was concerned about garbage accumulating at the ground as a large number of people who had gathered also disposed packaged materials.

"We have cleaned it twice but we can't help it if it rains. MCD has deployed its men to look after the place and I will myself be inspecting the place everyday. Besides, we will also conduct fogging here," she said.

As many as 30 Arjuna awardees also made their show of support to Hazare on Sunday. Bhim Singh an Arjuna awardee and 1968 Olympian said they had come together to support the cause.

(JPN/Agencies)