Begins a three-day ‘symbolic fast’ demanding passage of a strong Lokpal Bill

Fourteen months after he was hounded out of the Ramlila Maidan in a midnight police crackdown, Baba Ramdev was back at the same venue, where he began a three-day “symbolic fast” on Thursday, demanding passage of a strong Lokpal Bill in the ongoing Parliament session. His other demands are: bringing back black money stashed away abroad; an independent Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI); and making the appointment of the Director of CBI, the Central Vigilance Commissioner, the Chief Election Commissioner and the Comptroller & Auditor General transparent and independent.

He announced that he would disclose his future strategy on August 12, depending upon the response of the government to his protest.

Early in the day, the yoga guru was soft on the Congress-led UPA government compared to his aggressive stand in June last year. Making clear that his campaign was not against the Congress, he invited UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi to the fast venue. He also said that he respected the posts of President and Prime Minister and therefore never accused them of corruption.

But later in the day he changed his tone and lashed out at the government’s attitude of “dilly-dallying,” saying that it required “courage” to bring back black money stashed away abroad. Giving the government an ultimatum of 72 hours, he said: “The government must pay heed to the people’s demand. The money stashed away abroad does not belong to anybody. It belongs to the nation and must be brought back to the nation.”

Addressing a large crowd, he targeted Team Anna in several veiled references. “One should not be so adamant as to demand that only his version of the Lokpal Bill should be passed. Even if with slight differences, it can be passed. We can fix the defects with amendments later on. After all, there have been several amendments to the Constitution; then why can’t it be done with the Lokpal.”

The yoga guru said his campaign was apolitical. “We are not against any political party. We are not here to name or defame anybody. None of our volunteers has any kind of political aspiration. We do not want to enter politics and we are not asking anybody to leave their political posts and positions.”

He criticised Foreign Direct Investment as a key to corruption, but added that not the entire money which came through the FDI route was illegal.

The fast venue also witnessed a controversy as Baba Ramdev’s close aide Balakrishna figured in a poster along with Mahatma Gandhi and other freedom fighters. The posters were withdrawn later after it was pointed out by the media.

More In: National | News