Govt initiates fresh round of talks with Baba Ramdev

New Delhi: With barely 24 hours left for his `satyagraha` against corruption and black money, the government today initiated a fresh round of talks with Baba Ramdev to persuade him to give up his proposed agitation.

Senior ministers Kapil Sibal and Subodh Kant Sahay met him at a hotel here just an hour after Ramdev addressed thousands of his supporters at the Ramlila Maidan, where he indicated that a consensus was emerging on all issues raised by him barring one or two.

Before the crucial talks with Ramdev, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P Chidambaram and some of their colleagues went into a huddle to prepare a draft for the meeting.

Making all-out efforts to placate the yoga guru, the government made senior ministers stay put in the capital.

While Mukherjee scrapped his plan to visit Kolkata, Law Minister Veerappa Moily ended up cancelling his scheduled trip to Mangalore apparently for the same reason.

The meeting between Sibal, Sahay and Ramdev came after the Baba`s address to his supporters where he indicated a softening of his stance.

"…Barring one or two issues, a consensus seems to be emerging between us and the government," said the yoga guru, who had held his first round of talks with senior ministers, including Mukherjee, who had met him at the airport after his arrival here on June 1.

Hectic back-channel efforts were on for the last two days to placate Ramdev, who has raised issues of black money and corruption, as the government is keen to avert an Anna Hazare-like protest on the streets.

Claiming that his agitation was neither "politically motivated or communal" nor he has any "underground agenda" as was being portrayed by some sections, Ramdev said his movement is being undertaken in "national interest".

"Our agitation is not against any political party or individual. We are neutral, not being sponsored by any party or organisation and people from all castes and religion are joining us. We appeal to all parties to join us. We are erecting a special stage where representatives from all parties can come to put forth their point of view," he said.

In an apparent reference to suggestions that his movement is aimed at undermining Gandhian Anna Hazare`s agitation on the same issue, Ramdev said, "We do not want to show anyone as inferior or defeat anybody."

Ramdev claimed his movement was aimed at bringing back the Rs 400 lakh crore black money stashed overseas and change the corrupt system.

The fight against corruption will not be easy as those who benefit from graft are powerful, he said, adding "I am ready to fast for not only three days but for 30 days as we are doing it for the starving people in the country," he said.

Meanwhile, Ram Madhav, member of the RSS`s national executive, said "The Sangh has asked swayamsevaks to participate in fight against corruption in Delhi and in the districts."