Saturday, June 04, 2011

Yoga guru strikes a strident note, Sibal serious and measured

New Delhi: Baba Ramdev walked out of the Claridges Hotel on Aurangzeb Road in central Delhi on Friday evening where he held a five-hour marathon session with a UPA government team led by human resources development minister Kapil Sibal with a tired look, and almost a blanched face. Journalists and camerpersons who had been waiting in the lobby and outside the gates crowded around him, and all that Ramdev managed to blurt out is that there is no change in his intention to go on fast from Saturday morning.

There could not be further media interaction because of the utter chaos that followed, where the policemen and the hotel staff had to form a cordon around him, and rather unsuccessfully. Ramdev backed off and got into his black SUV and drove out followed by several police cars.

Sibal came to the lobby soon afterwards and told journalists that the talks were positive, and that the government has responded to all of the concerns he has raised. He said, “Some of these issues cannot be solved immediately and they have long term implications.”

The minister said that the government has given Ramdev written answers about the steps already taken. Sibal mentioned that the government had agreed with the yoga man on many of the issues like agriculture, education, corruption and black money. “We agreed on his demand that medical and engineering courses should be taught in Hindi.”

At Ramila Grounds, Ramdev had thanked the government for agreeing to teach the medical and engineering courses in Indian languages like Hindi, Tamil, Assamese, Marathi and Bangla.

Sibal refused to say whether Ramdev had given assurance that he would not go on fast. There was a rumour in early evening that there was a breakhtrough and the yoga guru would observe a 'celebratory' fast to mark the success of the talks. It turned out to be a false rumour.

Sibal sounded serious and not triumphant. Ramdev stuck to his political rhetoric when he got back to the huge camp set up at Ramlila Grounds in Old Delhi, and he even sounded defiant. He said that he would not be cowed down by any threats from the government about his assets.

Meanwhile, Congress party has explicitly distanced itself from the government-Ramdev interaction. A senior leader in the party had said that there was indeed overreaction on the part of the government when five ministers rushed to meet Ramdev at the airport on Wednesday. The party leader said that holding talks was not strictly within the instituional parameters of demcoracy, it was necessary for the government to respond to concerns of civil society.

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