Amid government efforts to work out a truce with Baba Ramdev, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday appealed to the yoga guru to call off his proposed fast unto death against corruption starting June 4.
Singh also deputed finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to convince Ramdev that the government is serious about tackling corruption.
The yoga guru, though, turned down the PM’s appeal, saying he wanted specific laws that tackled black money and corruption. His demands include bringing back black money stashed abroad, and drafting a strong lokpal bill.
"There is still time (to talk to Ramdev)… We have been in touch (with him)," he said in reply to a question about Ramdev’s impending fast.
The PM’s letter to Ramdev said,"We are committed to dealing with the problem of corruption, black money… and illicit funds… in foreign banks."
Ramdev, however, has positioned himself at variance with the Anna Hazare camp’s demand for the prime minister and higher judiciary to come under the lokpal, saying the matter needed extensive discussion. For the government, keen on preventing another Hazare-type agitation, this signals a possible split in civil society.
"If questions are raised on the integrity of a person sitting at the head of a democracy, then how will democracy survive? And if you doubt the head of the judicial system, then how can you assume that the lokayukta will be more honest,” Ramdev asked.
Arvind Kejriwal of the Hazare camp reacted, “We will explain the pros and cons to Babaji.”
Another major divergence is that Ramdev is open to the role of political parties in his fight against corruption. Hazare had kept politicians away from his fast in New Delhi.
Ramdev’s spokesperson ST Tijarawala told HT: “Political parties play a role in looking after governance. How can one change Indian politics without involving politicians?"
BJP president Nitin Gadkari extended full support to Ramdev’s fast. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — which had found a supporter in Ramdev when the presence of its functionary, Ram Madhav, at Hazare’s fast had been objected to — will have a media cell at the venue.