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Standoff with Ramdev continues

Smita Gupta

PHOTO: SANDEEP SAXENA

Baba Ramdev, Sri Vishwesha Teertha of the Pejavar Mutt and other religious leaders at the satyagrah against corruption at Ramlila Grounds inNew Delhi on Saturday.

New Delhi: The Union government was virtually back to square one on the Baba Ramdev affair on Saturday evening, with the yoga guru accusing Union Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal — a key negotiator — of betraying his trust, within minutes of telling a cheering crowd at Ramlila Maidan that the government had accepted all his demands and that once he received a clarificatory note to that effect, he would end his hunger strike. The day was expected to end with a resolution; instead it ended with the stand-off in place.

The dramatic change in Baba Ramdev's mood came after Mr Sibal — accompanied by Union Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahay — held up a handwritten assurance by the yoga guru's aide, Acharya Balkrishan, which said that he would announce at noon on Saturday that he would sit in meditation only from June 4 to 6 as the government had taken his demands seriously, accepted most of them and committed itself to seriously addressing soon the few that remained.

At the Ramlila Grounds, Baba Ramdev found himself in a fix answering questions from journalists on the “deal” that he had struck with the government even before the fast began, thus betraying his devotees who had shown up in the thousands to support his demands. Asked why he had written such a letter on Friday before everything had been settled, the yoga guru made some revelations of his own: he said Mr. Sibal had pleaded with him on Friday that he needed something, especially as his meeting with the four Cabinet Ministers at the airport had made the government the object of public ridicule. The yoga guru claimed that he had only written it so that if he did not end his hunger strike on June 6 — by which time he expected all matters to be settled — then that letter could be given to the Prime Minister.

A weak explanation. The yoga guru was clearly caught on the wrong foot by the revelation of the letter.

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