New Delhi: Despite using all its persuasive might, the government on Wednesday failed to convince Baba Ramdev to call-off his planned fast of June 4 on the issue of corruption.
In an unprecedented move, delegation of four senior ministers led by Pranab Mukherjee, met Ramdev at the T3 terminal of Indira Gandhi International Airport, upon his arrival in the city, and discussed his demands for more than two hours but they failed to cut much ice with the yoga guru. Ramdev arrived by a chartered jet from Ujjain.
Mukherjee was accompanied by HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahay.
The Ministers had parked themselves at the airport much before the scheduled arrival of Ramdev. Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrasekar was also along with the Ministers.
Briefing reporters after the talks, a tight-lipped Kapil Sibal said, “We met Ramdevji today. The conversations carried on for 2 ½ hours. He raised a lot of important issues which impact future of the country. We listened to him and prima facie responded to him.”
“We have agreed that we would be meeting each other and carry on with the dialogue in the next couple of days,” he said.
When specifically asked whether the government has been able to convince Ramdev against his fast-unto-death, Sibal dodged the question, “This is all I wish to say at this moment.”
However, Ramdev was much more forthcoming about what transpired at the meeting. Most importantly he announced that the plan to sit on fast from June 4 in Ramlila Maidan stands unchanged and that people would participate in it from all districts of the country.
He said that the first round of talks with the government was “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,” he said.
Stressing that his fight is not against any individual or party, Ramdev said, “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 adding “The country wants to get rid of corruption.”
The yoga guru and now the anti-corruption crusader has been demanding that Rs 400 lakh crore of black money stashed abroad, be brought back and declared as a national asset. He wants an ordinance to be promulgated followed by a bill to bring back the money.
Ramdev who is also a strong votary of an effective Lokpal Bill argues setting up fast-track courts to ensure speedy trial in corruption cases. He demands change in the electoral system. In addition, he demands a new Public Services Guarantee Act to be enacted to curb corruption.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had gone the extra mile to persuade Ramdev by writing a letter to him, appealing him not to go on fast but the yoga guru rejected the request.