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Anna hits out at Rahul over sarpanch meeting

Ralegan Siddhi: Anna Hazare has hit out at Rahul Gandhi for not meeting the Sarpanch from his native village, an issue that has been clouded in controversy and said he approved his decision not to meet the Congress leader even if given an appointment.

Hazare, who is observing `maun vrat`(vow of silence), said in a written statement that the decision by the Sarpanch and his team was taken out of "self respect" though he had nothing personal against anybody. The sarpanch of Ralegaon Siddhi Jaisingh Rao Mapari, Hazare`s personal secretary Suresh Pathare and Ramdas Ugale had come to New Delhi on Tuesday to meet Gandhi but no meeting took place as they reportedly had not sought an appointment.

The anti-corruption crusader said his aides and the Sarpanch have told him that they will not meet Rahul now. "The Sarpanch won`t meet Rahul even if he gives  an appointment," Hazare said in the statement. Upset over not getting an appointment with Rahul, the team decided to return home from Delhi on Tuesday saying now even if they get an appointment, the village will decide whether to meet the Congress leader or not.

Congress P T Thomas, who had interacted with them and had reportedly fixed the much-talked about meeting, however apologised for the "communication gap" that led to the confusion. Hazare said the Sarpanch got a call from Thomas asking them to come to Delhi on October 17 for a meeting with Rahul the next day. "They sought my permission and I approved the visit," the Gandhian said.

"We have come here after being told that we have an appointment with Rahul Gandhi on October 18 at 9 am. We came here believing the words of the MP. Now the MP says there was a communication gap. We are returning home. "We have said in our letter seeking appointment with Gandhi that we want to meet him as suggested by the MP. We were contacted by Thomas` office several times. Even Rahul Gandhi`s office called the sarpanch several times," Pathare told reporters in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Mapari said the team has been humiliated and will not meet Rahul Gandhi. "I felt happy that the Sarpanch and the youths said they will not meet Gandhi again neither they will invite him to Ralegan Siddhi. I liked the self respect displayed by the youth very much," Hazare said. Hazare said he advised the delegation to take Rahul`s support for Jan Lokpal bill but the appointment did not "materialise unfortunately".

He said the delegation went to Delhi not for making any demand. "Political leaders in the country make the youth helpless. I will make anti-corruption agitation stronger and mobilise youth power,"The Gandhian said that when he was undertaking fast at Ramlila Maidan in August, Thomas visited Ralegaon Siddhi and impressed with the work he felt that Rahul should visit the village."We don`t invite political leaders to Ralegaon but if somebody comes we will extend all hospitality," he said, adding, "We are ready to discuss Gram Vikas with anybody and get good ideas"

Hazare said it appeared that the issue of rural development is not being taken seriously at the national level.. "I told sarpanch and his team that there is nothing bad in going. It is necessary to discuss issues related to the development of the country, so they went to Delhi. They went there not to seek anything from Gandhi or Thomas," Hazare said. But on TV, he said, he watched the sarpanch and others return empty-handed without meeting Gandhi.

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