Talks fail again; Ramdev to start fast on Saturday

Updated - November 17, 2021 01:26 am IST

Published - June 03, 2011 01:17 pm IST - New Delhi

Less than 24 hours before Baba Ramdev's hunger strike starts beneath a giant marquee at the Ramlila Grounds here, the government's last ditch efforts on Friday to hammer out a compromise failed, even as Congress activists continued to speak bitterly of the government “capitulating” to him.

Meanwhile, informed sources told The Hindu that given the scale of preparations, made over several months and at great expense, it was a given that Baba Ramdev would like to make a splash in the capital.

Earlier, Union Ministers Kapil Sibal and Subodh Kant Sahay met Ramdev in the Claridges Hotel here and gave a written response to his demands. But the Yoga guru who emerged — flanked by a battery of advisers — after a four-hour session with the Ministers, announced that there was “no compromise” and that he was determined to undertake his fast from Saturday.

He then drove off to address a press conference at the Ramlila Grounds, where he told journalists — and his supporters — waving the note given to him, that the government had conceded most of his demands. Clearly, Ramdev, with his recent political ambitions, and the backing of the RSS, wants to extract all the mileage he can in the full glare of TV cameras that hound his every step.

Later in the evening, after the two Ministers met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, it was decided that the government's written response would be placed on the Press Information Bureau website as an indication of the government's “seriousness” and “sincerity” in engaging Ramdev. This is part of the government's war of nerves, but it is still advantage Baba Ramdev in the propaganda war.

Mr. Sibal said: “We had a constructive dialogue and the government addressed all issues in writing, many of which are of national concern and of which the government is already seized of.” The Ministers had told Baba Ramdev that the government would “seriously” look at all the issues he had raised and try and “move forward” on them. However, it was pointed out that “they cannot be resolved today, because they have long-term implications.”

He expressed the hope that the “Swamiji will do what is right.” When it was pointed out that Ramdev had said there was no compromise, Mr. Sibal said: “I don't know what he has said. We have responded to all his issues — on black money, corruption, the Lokpal Bill, special courts, agriculture, education, teaching in vernacular languages in engineering and medical colleges.”

The Ramdev affair has interrupted the government's normal schedule: if Mr. Sahay had to cut short an official trip to New York to return to Delhi to join the negotiations, Mr. Sibal also cancelled a foreign tour to remain in the capital.

And when the Prime Minister had his customary meeting with President Pratibha Patil on Friday, the issue figured in the 40-minute conversation, according to an official release.

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