If the effort fails, tough action may be an option

As the deadline for Baba Ramdev's proposed hunger strike on the issue of black money drew near, the Union government continued to work on a formula that would make the Yoga guru abandon his threat: “Baba Ramdev must be made to feel he has achieved something through his campaign,” ministerial sources told The Hindu. They added that “on Friday, at the next round of talks, he will be told about the government's intentions to deal with the key issues [on corruption] that he has raised, possibly with a time frame.” But, at the same time, there was a determination in the government that if it failed to persuade Baba Ramdev through dialogue, it would have to consider tough action to make him abandon his hunger strike plans. With memories of social activist Anna Hazare's fast still raw, the government does not want to take any chances.

Indeed, on Thursday, the Baba Ramdev issue continued to engage the attention of both the government and the Congress: in the evening, the Congress core group, the party's apex decision-making body, of which both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi are members, met to discuss ways of defusing the situation.

Immediately after that, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee convened a discussion on the issue with Cabinet colleagues A.K. Antony, Kapil Sibal, Pawan Kumar Bansal and Subodh Kant Sahay for what was described as a “review” of the situation. While Mr. Mukherjee and Mr. Antony are also members of the Core Group, the other three — along with the Finance Minister — are members of the government's negotiating team on the Baba Ramdev issue.

Internally, the government is exasperated with the turn of events — especially as many of Baba Ramdev's demands are impossible to fulfil, nor are any of them possible to deliver on immediately. One point that is rankling is the fact that Baba Ramdev had sought permission from the government to hold a yoga camp for 20 days at Delhi's Ramlila Grounds from June 4 — now, as government sources said, he is “using” that venue “against the government” by making it the site of his threatened hunger strike.