Sehore (MP)/New Delhi, May 31: Differences in the civil society came to the fore today with Baba Ramdev opposing demands for inclusion of Prime Minister and Chief Justice of India in the Lokpal Bill even as Manmohan Singh reached out to him appealing to him not to go ahead with his indefinite fast.
Simultaneously, the government also moved in by writing to Chief Ministers and leaders of political parties seeking their views on various issues, including whether Prime Minister and higher judiciary should be part of Lokpal Bill.
The yoga guru, with whom Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and top officials are in discussion in a bid to persuade him from going ahead with his protest demanding steps to bring back blackmoney from tax havens, broke ranks with Anna Hazare-led activists.
“The posts of Prime Minister and CJI are highly dignified and should not come under the ambit of the Lokpal Bill,” he told reporters in Sehore, a day after Hazare and four of his associates pressed for inclusion of the Prime Minister and higher judiciary in the proposed law.
The two posts are dignified and unnecessary public comments about them are not good, he said adding if the CJI cannot do his job properly, then how one could expect the Lokpal to do it.
However, Ramdev, who lent support to Anna Hazare in his campaign against corruption when he went on a fast in Jantar Mantar, refused to call off his own fast from June 4 till government conceded all his demands.
Hazare team campaigner Arvind Kejriwal, one of the members of the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill, sought to play down the differences they would try to convince Ramdev on the issue of the Prime Minister and judiciary because he may not be aware of all aspects of the issues.
Apparently worried over a fallout during a similar protest led by Hazare last month, the Singh today wrote to Ramdev asking him not to go ahead with his hunger strike from June 4.
“This is not a personal issue. We all agree with Ramdev that corruption is a big problem and that we are committed to tackling it with all the resources at our disposal,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Singh also assured the yoga guru that the government was “eager to work with you and members of civil society towards building just and prosperous India”.
Informing Ramdev that the Finance Minister and his officers would continue to have discussions with him on the issues that he has raised, Singh hoped in the letter that “you will now reverse your decision to go on a hunger strike unto death”.
“We will work with Ramdev earnestly in finding a practical and pragmatic solution to the problem. The question is what is possible way and what is feasible. There are laws”, Singh said.
“We hope Ramdev will recognise that we are sincere and serious about tackling corruption,” the Prime Minister said, adding that the government has taken steps. On the issue of whether the Prime Minister should be included in the Lokpal, Singh declined to comment saying it was not a question of his personal view.
At a press conference, Home Minister P Chidambaram said Mukherjee and his ministry officials were in discussions with Ramdev and one should wait for the results before discussions can take place on it.
Upping its ante, BJP asked the Prime Minister to take a serious note of Ramdev's protest and immediately putting in place an effective mechanism to get back the ill-gotten wealth.
In an open letter to the Prime Minister, BJP president Nitin Gadkari said bringing back Indian black money kept in tax havens abroad was on the agenda of both the Congress and BJP-led alliances during the 2009 general elections.
Congress maintained an enigmatic silence over Ramdev's proposed agitation on the blackmoney issue from June 4 and the government's decision to persuade him to postpone his protest.
“We have to nothing to say on Baba Ramdev,” was the only refrain of party spokesperson Manish Tewari to a volley of questions on the issue.
The party's reaction to Ramdev's agitation is in contrast to its earlier response when Anna Hazare had sat on a fast-unto-death last month with even party President Sonia Gandhi appealing to him to withdraw his fast.
Tewari said senior ministers of the government, who are also Congress leaders, are members of the Joint Committee to prepare the draft for Lokpal Bill and the party will say what ever it has to say on that legislation through its ministers. PTI