Top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders including party chief Nitin Gadkari, senior leaders LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, and Rajnath Singh went on a 24-hour fast at Rajghat in the capital on Sunday evening against the detention of Baba Ramdev late on Saturday.
The party has also called for 24-hour nationwide protests against the incident.
The party reacted immediately to the midnight crackdown on Sunday, with senior leaders speaking out against the government action, and the BJP’s core group met in the evening to discuss how to corner the government on the issue.
Senior leaders took turns to accuse Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of being behind the police “crackdown” and lambasted the government for stifling the democratic right of people to peacefully protest against “corruption”.
“I strongly condemn Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi for this incident. It is our democratic right to protest,” Gadkari said in Lucknow.
“Sonia Gandhi and the PM should apologise to the nation. Such a worthless government that commits atrocities on peaceful protesters has no right to rule. This is not democracy...the police cannot alone have taken such a step. It had the approval of the Prime Minister and full approval of the Congress President,” Swaraj said.
Her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley said, “No action was taken against Syed Ali Shah Geelani who held a programme challenging the Indian state. A person accused of sedition (activist Binayak Sen) is included in a government panel. But a patriotic sanyasi has no right to protest.”
Jaitley dismissed suggestions that BJP or the Sangh had helped “strategise” Ramdev’s programme. “He has a big infrastructure to plan the movement," he said.
He added that the government had lost sense of statecraft and was working without a “gameplan”.
Advani, too, dismissed allegations that BJP and RSS were behind Ramdev, saying, “…This is a constant refrain. But for Jan Sangh (BJP's parent organisation) and Sangh Parivar, Emergency (1975) would not have ended... A Congress spokesperson is abusing Ramdev left and right...This kind of allergy to supporters of probity is not the right approach.”
BJP leader Ananth Kumar charged the government with getting dictatorial whenever the Congress and its image got hurt by corruption, and said while Ramdev’s fast was a symbol of the movement against the government, it was the BJP that had been raising issues like the 2G, Commonwealth Games and Adarsh scams.