The gloves are off. Under attack from all sides for the action against Ramdev, Sonia Gandhi now plans an offensive to counter the after-effects and take on the communal and other forces who, it charged, have joined hands to weaken democratic institutions.
“The party has accepted the challenge,” said general secretary Janardan Dwivedi after Gandhi met office-bearers, state in-charges and the four ministers who were talking to Ramdev to call off his fast.In a thinly veiled attack on the RSS and BJP, he said there are political and communal forces, who, after failing to get a mandate, try to come to the fore by weakening constitutional and democratic institutions.
Dwivedi refused to say if the party backed the police action against Ramdev: “We do not discuss individuals….The person mentioned is nothing and is supported by other forces.”
Fuming that the Congress and Gandhi were being targeted, the party directed its workers to unite against this onslaught and propagate the party’s policies and achievements.
Earlier, Congress leaders justified the police act while accusing Ramdev of betrayal and failure to abide by his commitment to call off the fast.
But finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, whose visit to Delhi airport for talks with Ramdev had upset several Congress leaders, struck a different note.
He termed the police action “unfortunate” and said the issues raised by the yoga guru needed to be addressed.
“When negotiations were conducted, he said he would confine his protest to three days. If he would have stuck to this, then these turn of events would not have happened,” he said.
But in a stinging attack, Digvijaya Singh justified the crackdown, accused Ramdev of inciting people and described him as a “fraud.” He demanded an inquiry into the Baba’s properties and the IT exemption for his businesses.
Singh claimed the Congress had no role in the police action. “It was done by the administration,” he said.
Union minister Kapil Sibal, however, said “no such action takes place without 100% unity in the government and the party”. But a senior leader said the party was not told about the police action just as it was not aware that ministers would meet Ramdev at Delhi airport.
Sibal defended the action saying there were apprehensions of law and order problems with over 50,000 people gathering though the permission was only for 5,000.
Contesting the BJP’s charge that the police action was reminiscent of the Emergency, PK Bansal said Ramdev “didn’t see reason and the government had to act to maintain law and order”.