The national capital was thrown into chaos on Monday with Baba Ramdev, along with thousands of supporters, courting arrest while trying to march towards Parliament with a call for an “all-out war” against the Congress on the issues of black money and corruption. This came after the UPA government refused to engage in talks with him despite several threats during his three-day “symbolic fast” on the Ramlila Ground here, which spilled over into Monday.
Amid high drama, the yoga guru refused to be taken to Bawana on the outskirts of Delhi and insisted that all his supporters accompany him. Sporting a black band on the forehead and carrying the Tricolour in hand, he forced the police to change course and take him and his followers to the centrally located Ambedkar Stadium under preventive detention. “We had decided that we would make the government hear our voices by a hunger strike. We were marching peacefully, now the police have stopped us. We respect the law,” he said before being arrested.
Though Ramdev and his supporters were let off after six hours of arrest, they refused to leave the stadium. Till late evening, they stayed put inside demanding that the government heed their demands. The yoga guru declared that he would not break his fast on Monday night.
Despite police officials pleading with him to vacate the stadium as it is close to the Red Fort, where Independence Day celebrations are to be held on Wednesday, and that it might be a security threat, the yoga guru categorically said leaving the premises on Monday night was “out of the question.” But, he said, he respected Independence Day and might think of leaving the place on Tuesday, though he appealed to his followers in and around Delhi to come to the stadium in solidarity with his struggle for unearthing black money.
Ramdev has asked the government to immediately provide sufficient food and water to his supporters. “Such an irony of this country is that while terrorists like Amir Ajmal Kasab were being given biryani for food, desh bhakht like me and thousands with me are not even given water and basic facilities,” Ramdev said while branding Sonia Gandhi “anti-national.”
Bolstered by the unannounced arrival and support of National Democratic Alliance leaders — BJP president Nitin Gadkari and NDA convener and JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav — Ramdev positioned himself against the Congress and appealed to his followers to defeat the party at the Centre in the 2014 general elections.
He was also backed by leaders of the Biju Janata Dal, the Akali Dal and the Janata Party, who shared the dais with him and pledged their support to his cause.
“The 2014 Lok Sabha elections are not far away. We will call upon every citizen of the country to not only boycott the Congress but also to ensure its defeat. There should not be any ambivalence about it now,” he said. “We do not have a political agenda. We are protesting to make sure that no dishonest and corrupt person enters Parliament.”
Coining the slogan “Congress hatao, desh bachao” (remove Congress, save country), Ramdev said: “The Congress-led UPA government has become completely deaf, dumb and blind. The fact that the party did not respond to the calls of millions of people on the issue of black money and corruption shows its arrogance. But they should remember that once the public gets angry, it can root out those in power.”
Earlier, high drama was witnessed before the yoga guru and his supporters were taken into custody. Amidst heavy police deployment, Ramdev came out of the Ramlila Maidan at 1.15 p.m. in an open van to march towards Parliament, which is in session. He was followed by thousands of his supporters. After 10 minutes of marching, he was taken into preventive custody near the Ranjit Singh flyover, as the police had blocked all roads leading to Parliament. The police had kept ready 90 Delhi Transport Corporation buses and deputed 6,000 police personnel to prevent any law and order problem.
“We will continue to fight this government till it is rooted out. This is our strategy now,” Ramdev declared, popping his head out of the bus window. “The Congress has become a river of corruption and they have mines of black money. If that black money is brought back, this country will become a heaven. We will tell people not only to defeat the Congress, but also which candidate to vote for.”
As his supporters had blocked the road leading to the Ranjit Singh flyover, the Baba went atop the bus and appealed to them to make way for the vehicle.