Yoga guru Baba Ramdev stuck to his decision to begin his highly publicised indefinite fast from Saturday morning, despite a series of measures announced by the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday.
On a day of high drama which saw the government negotiators closeted for over five hours with Ramdev at the Claridges Hotel — which was as unlikely a venue as the Delhi airport, when four senior ministers rolled out a red carpet for the yoga guru on Wednesday — the much anticipated breakthrough did not come.
Emerging from the meeting, neither Ramdev nor ministers Kapil Sibal and Subodh Kant Sahay appeared comfortable. The normally bubbly yoga guru only said, “There is no compromise.”
The PMO even detailed the points it agreed to consider in a four-page note. But Ramdev, returned to the Ramlila ground from the hotel, making it clear that although 90% of his demands had been met, he was not going to relent till the government accepted all of them.
The government has already accepted the demand of "declaring the illicit funds as national asset," but avoided the death-for-corruption demand. Instead, it talked about "exemplary punishment".
The maximum punishment for corruption would be "increased substantially", PMO release said, spelling out the measures taken so far to fight black money.
What's more, the government had no difficulty in promising to set up fast-track courts to handle corruption cases, as it has already been agreed to by the joint panel drafting the lokpal bill.
Like Mahato, teachers, housewives, farmers, lawyers, retired army personnel, doctors and labourers, everybody here said they had come because they had benefited from Ramdev's yoga lessons.
Like those who had gathered in large numbers during social activist Anna Hazare's fast unto death in April to demand a strong lokpal bill, those who gathered at the Ramlila Ground to lend support to Ramdev's call for an end to corruption.
But unlike the well-heeled Facebook-connected supporters who converged at Jantar Mantar to support Hazare for a cause, most of the people at the Ramlila Ground were ordinary people who had come primarily because of their faith in their guru.
Ramdev's followers — women forming about one-third of them — had come not for an evening but for several days, prepared to camp at the fast site with simple facilities. And they enjoyed themselves with live bhajans, patriotic songs and sloganeering when Ramdev was not around.
This drew loud cheers and slogans. "People have not come here to to witness Ramlila. They have come to see the end of the demon Ravan in the form of corruption," Ramdev said.