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Ramdev to begin fast Saturday as talks fail

Friday June 03, 2011 09:45:04 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: Yoga guru Baba Ramdev Friday declared he was going ahead with his hunger strike against corruption and black money from Saturday after the government's attempt to persuade him to call it off failed despite talks between him and two union ministers.

"From all over the country, men and women have come here to ensure that black money stashed abroad comes back," Ramdev declared to a huge audience at the Ramlila Ground where he would begin his hunger strike Saturday.

The agitation will continue "till all the demands are met", he said.

"Our agitation will be democratic and non-violent. It is not against any party or to bring down the government," he said.

"A few corrupt people have given a bad name to this country. We have to do something," Ramdev exhorted his supporters to loud cheers from the huge gathering.

Soon after the negotiations, between 2 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the upscale Claridges Hotel, with union ministers Kapil Sibal and Subodh Kant Sahay, Ramdev, accompanied by colleagues, visited Rajghat and Bhagat Singh park and offered tributes.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met President Pratibha Patil in the evening and apprised her of the situation, a official in the President's office said.

Before that, Sibal and Sahay, who rushed to the prime minister's residence after the talks broke down, apprised him of the negotiations.

Congress sources said that the prime minister was also in touch with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who was touring Rajasthan, about the developments.

Meanwhile, security measures have been tightened in the capital on the eve of the fast, police said.

Though the government may not clamp down on the popular yoga guru and his supporters, efforts will be made to end the fast Saturday itself, a senior official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

"The government would do everything to avoid a prolonged situation like the fast by social activist Anna Hazare in April," he added.

The official said "channels of communication are still open between the Ramdev camp and the government". "There might be negotiations Saturday. A way out may be attempted so that both sides do not lose face," he said.

Ramdev's stir is to force the government to take urgent steps to bring back black money stashed away abroad by Indians.

"The government has verbally agreed to my demand of bringing back black money but I want an ordinance. The talks were positive but many more issues are to be sorted out," the yoga guru said.

"We are not here to see the Ramlila, but to end the corrupt Ravan," said Ramdev.

"We are not here to indulge in violence. But if government tries to crush us, then the result will not be good."

He also said that rumours were afloat that he had been bought over by the government, but this was not true.

"No one can buy me," he asserted, adding: "We are here to do something."

Sibal told reporters that an agreement could not be reached even though the government gave written answers to the issues raised by Ramdev.

"I have no idea about his plans," he said when asked if Ramdev will be permitted to go on fast.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy told reporters that his party supported the action by Ramdev against black money and corruption.

Meanwhile, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh continued his criticism of Ramdev.

"Propagation of yoga is alright. But he (Ramdev) should not mix yoga with politics," he told reporters.

Digvijay Singh had earlier alleged that Ramdev is "more of a money-making industrialist than a saint".




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