New Delhi, Jun 1: A nervous government today took the extraordinary step of deputing its four senior Cabinet ministers to the Delhi airport in a bid to persuade Baba Ramdev to give up his indefinite fast on corruption but the yoga guru insisted that he would go ahead with it from June four while leaving a small window open for discussions.
Virtually rolling out the red carpet for Ramdev, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee accompanied by Kapil Sibal, Pawan Kumar Bansal and Subodh Kant Sahay held talks for over two hours at the airport with Ramdev, who arrived by a chartered jet from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh this afternoon.
Government's efforts to prevent a repeat of a situation that evolved when Anna Hazare-led civil society mounted a campaign for a strong Lokpal in April appeared to have not yielded immediate fruits as Ramdev insisted on “action” rather than “assurances” on the issue of bringing back black money stashed abroad.
Ramdev, who earlier in the morning did a volte face on his yesterday's statement that the Prime Minister and Chief Justice of India should be kept out of Lokpal's purview, told reporters that the first round of talks has been positive and there will be further dialogue with the government. “We will not be satisfied by dialogues or assurances. There should be evidence about bringing back around black money from tax havens,” he said.
“On June four there will be a satyagraha (protest fast) in Ramlila Maidan as well as in 624 districts across as crores of people want the country to be rid of black money, corruption and demand a change in system,” he said. Another round of dialogue will take place on Friday.
To a question on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's appeal to him not to go ahead with his fast plans, Ramdev said he did not believe in fear or creating fear and have raised issues of national interest. “This fight is not against any person and any party. So we are not criticising anybody.” “Till there is 100 per cent agreement, I will not go back on my decision for fast,” he said.
The Baba said talks were “positive” and that there was agreement on some issues “but till there is 100 per cent agreement on all issues and a decisive stage is reached, the fast will go on.”
“It is a big war. We have to change the system of 64 years. It is not an easy task. But we will get it done,” he said.
On its part the government said Ramdev raised serious national issues and dialogue with him will continue in the next couple of days.
“He (Ramdev) raised important issues which impact on the future of our country. They are significant national issues. They are limited to one or two issues. There were broad range of issues. We prima facie responded to them,” Sibal told reporters after the meeting.
“We are running a responsive government. We will take all the issues forward...These are serious issues. Government will not only think seriously but move forward,” he said but declined to give details of the discussions.
Maintaining that black money and corruption were two sides of the same coin, Ramdev said that the main issues raised with the government were a strong Lokpal, a Public Service Delivery Guarantee Act that should be implemented in all the states and setting up of fast track courts to give judgements in one year with provisions for death sentence for the corrupt. PTI