New Delhi: Baba Ramdev on Saturday began an indefinite fast against blackmoney but by the end of the day he was in a tight corner after government released a letter from his aide that he would call off the agitation by mid-day.
As talks failed, the two sides blamed each other of having gone back on their commitments and Ramdev accused the government of “betrayal and cheating”.
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Union human resource development minister Kapil Sibal’s release of the letter by Acharya Balkrishan, Ramdev’s key aide, led to attack by the yoga guru that government was indulging in “betrayal and cheating” and that he would now only go by any word from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whom he still respects.
Union human resource development minister Kapil Sibal showing a letter written by Acharya Balkrishna during a press conference regarding talks with Swami Ramdev in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI Photo
The dramatic development came as Ramdev first announced that he would be giving the “good news” of ending the agitation but quickly went back on it after Sibal made public the letter at a press conference also attended by another union minister Subodh Kant Sahay.
In a stick-and-carrot message, Sibal said that the government has honoured all its commitments and that Ramdev had a misapprehension when he questioned the setting up of a committee on making a law to deal with blackmoney menace.
Ruling out issuing an ordinance on the issue, the minister, who held negotiations with Ramdev on Friday, made a veiled threat that the government that has “always reached out can also rein in”.
“If we are accommodative, we can also be firm,” he said adding that negotiations cannot be taken as a sign of weakness.
Earlier, Ramdev also alleged that there were attempts to threaten him and said he will not sit back if attacks are unleashed on him.
Baba Ramdev amuses his followers on the first day of his Satyagrah against corruption at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI Photo
He also said he wants concrete action on the issue of black money rather than formation of any committee. Ramdev, who launched his hunger strike against corruption, reaffirmed his demand for declaring black money stashed abroad as national wealth.
“Some people are making irresponsible remarks like Baba wants to create instability. I did not bring discord between Hindus and Muslims or on the lines of caste or region,” he said in an obvious reference to Congress targeting him.
“In this fight for truth, I will not attack first but I will not sit back if I am attacked. I will reply,” he said.
Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi had said Ramdev was being “remote-controlled” by vested political interests with BJP and RSS and their several front organisations trying to destabilise the government through the campaign.
“I am not agent of BJP or RSS...I am agent of farmers and labourers...We are not against any party or individual,” the yoga guru said.
Ramdev maintained that neither he wants any political post nor he will fight elections. “I will not be the Prime Minister or President even if someone wants.”
The yoga guru alleged that there was some “conspiracy” to ensure that he does not go ahead with his protest but did not elaborate. On Friday, he had warned the government against pressuring or suppressing the movement.
Ramdev said no one can ”shut his mouth” through any pressure. He said his main demands are that government should declare black money overseas as national assets and bring charges of treason against those who stash money abroad.
Amid criticism from Congress about his movement being a “five-star” one, he said: “People have spent their money for this pandal ... would it have been proper if so many people are forced to sit in the sun in this heat?”
Describing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a “man of integrity”, he said if the government approaches this issue with right intention and accepts his demands, it will get the credit for it.
“I have not come here for getting any job or reservation. I have not come here to beg. I am seeking what is the right of this country,” he said adding that he will talk to the government over phone and will not “go anywhere”.
Asked about Digvijay’s attacks on him, he said “a politician should not have made such an irresponsible statement...let’s talk on issues of corruption and system change. We will talk about Baba later.”
To a question on Sadhvi Rithambara joining the agitation, Ramdev made it clear that he found nothing wrong in that.
Asked if agreeing to a joint drafting committee on Lokpal was a mistake by Anna Hazare, he said he will not raise any question on the Gandhian and he is with him.