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Ramdev adamant on ‘fast’ track
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

Union ministers Kapil Sibal and Pawan Kumar Bansal after meeting Baba Ramdev at the IGI Airport in New Delhi on Wednesday
Union ministers Kapil Sibal and Pawan Kumar Bansal after meeting Baba Ramdev at the IGI Airport in New Delhi on Wednesday. — Tribune photo

New Delhi, June 1
Having been caught off-guard by the huge public response to social activist Anna Hazare’s indefinite fast on the Lokpal Bill, a nervous government today dispatched four Cabinet ministers, including Pranab Mukherjee, to woo yoga guru Baba Ramdev who is set to begin an indefinite fast against corruption and black money from June 4.

The two-hour confabulations, however, failed to convince Baba Ramdev, who later announced that his plan to sit on fast remained unchanged.

“The satyagraha from June 4 will continue as per plans,” he announced, adding that this agitation will spread from Ramlila grounds to 624 districts in the country with over one crore people participating in it on the first day itself.

However, he did not outrightly reject the government overtures. “The talks were held on a wide range of issues. The government’s response has been positive and there has been a consensus on some issues. Our talks will continue,” he said.

Besides demanding the fast-tracking of graft cases, the baba wants the government to take concrete steps to bring back the black money stashed abroad.

Given Baba Ramdev’s cult following and having learnt a bitter lesson from the Anna Hazare episode, the government deputed Union ministers Pranab Mukherjee, Kapil Sibal, PK Bansal and Subodh Kant Sahay to meet the yoga guru to explain the steps initiated by the UPA government on the issue of black money. Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrashekhar was also present during these discussions.

The ministers met him at the VIP lounge of the Delhi airport on his arrival from Ujjain. Government sources said the talks with Baba Ramdev, who was accompanied by columnist Ved Vaidik and Justice Pritampal Singh, were held in a cordial atmosphere. The yoga guru, it seemed, was overawed by Pranab Mukherjee’s presence and was all praise for him. “He was not disruptive or aggressive. He appreciated the government’s efforts on black money and also understood its constraints in taking quicker action,” it was stated.

Striking the right note, Sibal later told mediapersons, “Baba Ramdev raised serious issues impacting the country. The government will take these forward.” Another round of talks would be held with the yoga guru, he added.

Sources said since the ruling alliance was on the back foot on the issue of corruption, it could not afford to ignore anybody who raised a voice against graft. The government had come in for severe criticism for not opening a dialogue with Anna Hazare when he wrote several letters to the Prime Minister, seeking a strong Lokpal Bill.

“We do not want the situation to snowball as it did the last time,” remarked a senior Cabinet minister while explaining the government’s decision to set up a ministerial meet with Baba Ramdev.

PM holds meeting with top ministers

PM Manmohan Singh met his Cabinet colleagues and discussed with them Ramdev's proposals and ways to defuse the situation. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P Chidambaram and HRD Minister Kapil Sibal briefed Singh on their discussions with Ramdev.

More talks with Ramdev on Friday: PC

Home Minister P. Chidambaram has said the government would hold the next round of talks with the yoga guru on June 3.





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