NEW DELHI: The government Saturday night sent a written assurance to Baba Ramdev on enacting law on black money and declaring it as national asset for which a committee will be set up.
Tourism Minister, Mr Subodh Kant Sahai told reporters that the letter has been sent to the yoga guru and expressed hope that he would call off the hunger strike which began here Saturday morning.
The government and Baba Ramdev were on Saturday night locked in a stand-off over his indefinite fast against black money leading to a blame game between the two sides and the yoga guru was in a tight corner after government released a letter from his aide that he would call off the agitation by mid-day. Though the two sides exchanged barbs, government kept its channel of communication open with Ramdev, who accused it of “betrayal and cheating,” by sending a fresh letter giving an assurance on his demands.
Union Minister, Mr Kapil Sibal’s release of the letter by Acharya Balkrishan, Ramdev’s key aide, led to attack by the yoga guru that government was indulging in “betrayal and cheating” and that he would now only go by any word from the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, whom he still respects.
The dramatic development came as Ramdev first announced that he would be giving the “good news” of ending the agitation but quickly went back on it after Mr Sibal made public the letter at a press conference also attended by another Union Minister, Mr Subodh Kant Sahay.
In a carrot-and-stick message, Mr Sibal said that the government has honoured all its commitments and that Ramdev had a mis-apprehension when he questioned the setting up of a committee on making a law to deal with black money menace.
Ruling out issuing an ordinance on the issue, the Minister, who held negotiations with Ramdev on Friday, made a veiled threat that the government that has “always reached out can also rein in.” “If we are accommodative, we can also be firm,” he said adding that negotiations cannot be taken as a sign of weakness.
After the two sides indulged in attacks, Union Minister Mr Subodh Kant Sahay – one of the negotiators with the baba – announced a letter was being sent to Ramdev giving assurance that a law will be made on bringing back black money and declaring it as a national asset. It will also provide for exemplary punishment for those found guilty.
“One per cent of commitment was remaining and we did not want the talks to breakdown. Therefore, we are fulfilling the commitment. We hope Ramdev will fulfill his part of commitment of ending the agitation once he gets the written assurance,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Ramdev came under severe questioning by media as to why he did not disclose since Friday that there was an understanding to this effect that he would call off the fast after government’s written assurance on three of his demands.
“You kept the faithful, media and the nation in the dark,” was one of the several questions hurled at an uneasy Ramdev who at one point conceded that the reason that he did not announce the understanding on Friday was because people would have left. However, he quickly hastened to add that government would show its “thumb” to his movement and do nothing about his demands.
“Kapil Sibal is a liar. I will never talk to him in my life-time,” Ramdev said adding that he still reposed faith in the Prime Minister and would go by his decision. Replying to a barrage of questions, Ramdev said the letter was given after the ministers “pleaded” that this letter was only meant for Prime Minister to show that his fast was not going to be indefinite and that he was not aiming at destabilising the government.
Ramdev claimed the ministers had sought the letter as the government had suffered a huge embarrassment after its decision to send four senior ministers to meet him at the airport on June 1 for discussions. However, he did not appear convincing in his replies as media grilled him on the letter and its non-disclosure. At one point, he cautioned a reporter to remain within “limits” when the scribe asked him about the funding of his agitation.