We hope he will not take recourse to agitation: Manmohan Singh
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government will appeal to Baba Ramdev once again to abandon the hunger strike he has threatened to go on from June 4, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said here on Tuesday evening.
Speaking to journalists at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, shortly after German Chancellor Angela Merkel was honoured with the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding for 2009, the Prime Minister said: “We will make another effort to persuade Baba Ramdev not to take this course of action. We hope he will not take recourse to agitation.”
Dr. Singh's remarks, in response to a question, came a day after the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) met to discuss the possible political fallout of Baba Ramdev's hunger strike on the issue of black money and what action it should take in light of the countrywide impact that social activist Anna Hazare's fast had in April.
The Prime Minister's comments also come in the wake of the letter he wrote to Baba Ramdev (in Hindi) on May 19, appealing to him to reverse his decision. In the letter, he stressed that his government was “committed to deal with… corruption, black money in our economy and illicit funds deposited in foreign banks.”
He had also said that he had requested the Finance Minister to “give serious consideration” to the issues he had raised and ‘inform you' about the government's efforts in this regard.
At the time the letter was written, Pranab Mukherjee and his officers had already had one round of discussions with Baba Ramdev — the letter notes. Dr. Singh goes on to say that the government welcomes Baba Randev's “constructive suggestions to improve governance” and that it was “eager” to work with him and members of civil society “towards building a just and prosperous India.”
He concludes by saying that the Finance Minister and his officers would continue to have discussions with him.
This letter clearly had no impact and so, on Monday the CCPA, in fire-fighting mode, decided that the government would respond to Baba Ramdev again, listing the actions the government had taken to tackle the problem of illicit funds, in the hope that he might give up the idea of his hunger strike.
Shortly before the Prime Minister spoke to journalists on Tuesday, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram confirmed that Mr. Mukherjee would be talking to Baba Ramdev soon, adding that: “Finance Ministry officials have already met him and the discussions are continuing.”
He was referring to Chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) Sudhir Chandra's recent meeting with Baba Ramdev. Pressed on the government's strategy, the Home Minister said, “let it [the discussions] throw up results first.”
At the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Dr. Singh also acknowledged that corruption was “a big problem” and that his government was “committed to tackling it using all resources at its disposal.”
Meanwhile, the Congress on Tuesday refused to comment on Ramdev's proposed hunger strike and the government's efforts to persuade him to postpone his protest. The Congress is clearly being cautious this time: its silence this time is in sharp contrast to the line it had taken in the run-up to Mr. Hazare's fast in April, when party spokesperson Manish Tewari had appealed to him to “reconsider his stand and accept the government's offer of a constructive dialogue,” and party president Sonia Gandhi, too, issued an appeal to the Gandhian activist.