Yoga guru Baba Ramdev will reveal on Friday whether the government has been able to persuade him to abandon his indefinite fast from Saturday to demand an end to corruption and black money.
Top ministers continued their hectic efforts to persuade Ramdev to call off his fast and engaged him in back-channel negotiations on Thursday. The government and top Congress leaders also went into a huddle to take stock of the situation.Indications from both the sides suggest that Ramdev might withdraw his hunger strike if the government gives him an acceptable assurance that it will address the issue of unearthing black money.
The first hint of a breakthrough came from the Ramdev camp itself. In a sudden decision, Ramdev called off his 4.30pm press conference at Ramlila Maidan “in the light of the serious dialogue with the government” and said he would announce on Friday the “conclusive outcome” of his talks with government representatives.
Sources said the back-channel talks revolved around a definite timeframe on the issues raised by Ramdev at his meeting with four union ministers on Wednesday.
On a day of hectic developments, the Congress core group met at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence to take stock of the situation. The nearly two-hour meeting, chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, discussed the outcome of both formal and informal talks with Ramdev.
The core group was told that the decision to engage Ramdev had been taken at a meeting of the cabinet committee on political affairs last week. The Congress core group later left it to the government to deal with the situation in an “appropriate manner and on its own terms and conditions”.
Soon after the meeting, government managers met at finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s North Block office. The meeting was attended by cabinet ministers Kapil Sibal, PK Bansal and Subodh Kant Sahay — who had received Ramdev at the airport on Wednesday. They were later joined by cabinet colleagues P Chidambaram, AK Antony, M Veerappa Moily besides cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar and home secretary GK Pillai.
Despite some voices of dissent in the Congress over the government virtually rolling out the red carpet for Ramdev, the party stood firmly behind the move to engage him in talks.
"As a responsible and sensitive government, we are engaging everyone constructively to find practical and real solutions in national interest. This should not be mistaken as a sign of weakness or fear,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.