Baba Ramdev and the Indian government Saturday seemed to be
heading for a showdown as the popular yoga guru vowed to continue
his anti-corruption fast at the Ramlila Ground here after the
day-long talks ended with allegations and counter-claims from both
Ramdev in the evening claimed before thousands of his supporters
that the government had accepted his demands and he will call off
his fast if given a written assurance.
But he hardened his stand, when minutes later union minister Kapil
Sibal told reporters that the guru had Friday agreed to end his
fast by Saturday afternoon.
A furious Ramdev accused the government of betrayal and said that
he will not negotiate with Sibal and insisted the government issue
an ordinance for bringing black money back into the country.
"The government has betrayed us. The letter was signed saying that
it will be given to the prime minister to assure him that it is
not blackmailing. He (Sibal) said all demands will be met in two
days," Ramdev said.
"We will continue till all our demands are met. Till our last
breath," he said to a thunderous applause from his supporters.
The government, which already faced an swelling angry movement
against pervasive corruption in public life just two months ago,
seem to be buckling in.
But as evening neared, more talks, mostly over telephone, between
Ramdev and Sibal, led to an escalation of differences.
Ramdev is one of the half-a-dozen self-appointed leaders of a
movement against corruption in high places and public life.
Sibal claimed the government had reached out to Ramdev over three
days but can also rein him in.
"We have already reached out, but we can also rein in. We are
accommodating, but we can also rein in," Sibal told reporters. "We
have honoured all our commitments. If he continues with his fast,
then whatever it is."
He said the government was ready to make a law to make ill-gotten
money stashed away in foreign countries as national asset. For
drafting the law, a committee will be appointed with a six-month
"The readiness to form a committee means the government is
committed to make the law," Sibal added.
The day started amid high drama, as Ramdev started his fast amid
thousands of supporters and hundreds of cameras at the sprawling
"It is overwhelming to see the huge crowd that has gathered in
support of our crusade against corruption," Ramdev, who shot to
fame through his yoga shows on TV, said.
An edgy government, which saw mass support for another hunger
strike by activist Anna Hazare over anti-graft just two months
ago, tried all its cards.
As the government ministers tried to persuade Ramdev, Congress
leaders went on the offensive, questioning his political support
and dubbing his protest a "five-star satyagraha".
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi alleged the protest
was "huge logistical operation" and was "remote-controlled by some
organisation and parties".
Congress' Digvijay Singh spoke of the guru's jet-setting ways.
"Baba travels in a private jet, stays in a five-star luxury hotel,
and has the money for such arrangements before going on a fast.
This is surely a five-star satyagraha as you doubt his
credibility," Singh said.