BeyondHeadlines News Desk
New Delhi: After making several attempt to pursue Baba Ramdev not to go ahead with his plan to sit on hunger strike against corruption, the government has now decided that it not will not allow his fast-unto-death scheduled to begin from June 4 at Delhi’s Ram Lila Maidan.
Sources said that senior cabinet ministers might meet him in Delhi today once again. Yesterday, four ministers, including Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, went to Delhi airport to give him a warm welcome in the national capital with an aim to request him to postpone the planned fast. However, this has allegedly upset the the Congress party, which felt it was too grand a gesture. The ministers spent more than two hours with the yoga icon at the airport lounge, reassuring him that the government is serious about tackling corruption with a series of measures, including a tough new Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill), which is scheduled to be presented in Parliament by the end of this month.
That bill is being drafted by a committee that couples five ministers with five representatives of civil society led by veteran Gandhian Anna Hazare. Earlier, this year, it was Hazare’s hunger strike that served as a call to action for middle class India which organized a series of protests across the country, demanding that the government end decades of lethargy to introduce a Lokpal Bill that will combat corruption within the government and bureaucrats.
Ramdev’s critics say that his fast against corruption is a concerted effort to upstage Mr Hazare – an argument that was bolstered when the Baba contradicted Mr Hazare to state that the Prime Minister and senior judges should not be covered by the Lokpal Bill. Today, however, Ramdev said that he had suggested only that this point be debated.
In Pune, Hazare has said that he will join the Baba’s fast at Delhi’s Ram Lila Maidan, where thousands of people are expected to show up starting Saturday. He also said the posse of four ministers that met Ramdev at the airport are not to be trusted because the government is set on diluting the Lokpal Bill.
“They will trap Ramdev also. They will cheat him. What is the need for so many people to go? It was okay for one or two to go,” the Gandhian said.
The government stands to benefit greatly if Ramdev emerges as a parallel power centre in civil society. Hazare’s determination to have non-government representatives involved with the drafting of the Lokpal Bill set a new precedent for India – one that the government tried to fight and has described as dangerous.
But given the overwhelming public support that Hazare received, the government is keen to avoid yet another confrontation with civil society activists. There’s also the added concern that the Baba could ally more closely with the Opposition BJP, which has been targeting the government for being tolerant of corruption.
Government sources say that’s why the four ministers were seen at the airport yesterday. It was upto Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh to indicate that perhaps, the government was making too much of the Baba by taking him seriously as a crusader of the people. “Baba Ramdev is not a guru, he’s a businessman. If Congress were scared of him, it would have put Ramdev behind bars. Ramdev is more of a businessman now. He charges Rs 50,000 for teaching yoga,” he said.