Political sparring over Ramdev issue intensifies

New Delhi/Haridwar: Sparring over the Baba Ramdev issue escalated on Tuesday with the Congress dubbing the yoga guru and Anna Hazare as `mukhota` (masks) of the Sangh Parivar and the BJP hitting back by terming the Government as a "headless chicken".

It was a free for all war of words with AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh spearheading the Congress attack and BJP`s Arun Jaitley returning the fire.

Singh said both Ramdev and Hazare were "masks" of the Sangh Parivar including the RSS and the BJP which were out to destabilise the government and make a bid to get back to power.

Jaitley dubbed the government as a "headless chicken" over the handling of the Ramdev controversy. He alleged that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has no authority and the Gandhi family, where the powers lay, has no accountability.

Reacting sharply to the charges, Congress said the description fits well on the Opposition party itself as it was wandering in political wilderness for the last seven years and its remote control RSS is omnipresent but always hidden.

"From 2004 to 2011, people, who have been running around like headless chicken or rooster is BJP," party spokesperson Manish Tewari said pointing to the political wilderness of the Opposition party for seven long years.

Jaitely said there were two views in the government on how to deal with Ramdev`s agitation.

He said while Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had favoured a political settlement of the issue, Home Minister P Chidambaram wanted use of force.

In Delhi, police cited "provocative" speeches made by religious and political leaders including Ramdev and Sadhvi Ritambara as the main reason for cancelling permission of the yoga gur`s protest at Ramlila Maidan.

In its FIR, Delhi police said though Ramdev had sought permission only for congregation of 5,000 people from June one for 20 days, the numbers had swelled to over 25,000 by June 3 midnight. It apprehended law and order problem.

In Haridwar, after his stinging attack, Ramdev mellowed down today saying he "forgave" the Prime Minister for the crackdown on him and his supporters.

"The Prime Minister termed it (the police action) unfortunate. In a way he has accepted his sin. Since he has accepted his sin, I have forgiven him," Ramdev told reporters at his ashram in Haridwar.

"I have personally forgiven him but the history of not only India but the whole world will never forgive him for the political sin he committed. He has tainted democracy," Ramdev said.

The yoga guru was reacting to Singh`s remarks yesterday that "it was unfortunate that the operation had to be conducted but quite honestly, there was no alternative."

Three days after remaining underground, Ramdev`s close aide Acharya Balkrishna surfaced denying all allegations against him and said he was an Indian who was born and brought up here.

Balakrishna who went missing after the Delhi police`s baton charge at the Ramlila ground in Delhi on June 4 midnight, dismissed allegations that he was trying to flee.

When asked where did he go after escaping from the Yoga camp, Balkrishan said he was "too frightened to come out in the public" and reached Haridwar only today.

"I am born in Haridwar and I am an Indian. I have completed my education from here. My parents are from Nepal," Balakrishna said when he was asked about allegations that he possessed multiple passports.

Balakrishna, seen prominently during the fast of Ramdev at Ramlila maidan, also denied that he was on a "secret mission", as suggested by his Guru earlier.

In Delhi, AICC general secretary B K Hariprasad told reporters that the Sangh Parivar had hatched a "conspiracy" aimed at creating a "Godhra-like communal violence".

With the Delhi police refusing permission for the day-long hunger strike at Jantar Mantar tomorrow, Hazare today decided to shift the venue to Rajghat to avoid any confrontation.

On his part, Ramdev dismissed suggestions of any rift with the Hazare camp and said he has told his supporters to join the Rajghat protest in large numbers.

Ramdev said he was open to talks with the Government.

After accusing him of reneging on his promise to end his fast in Delhi last Saturday, senior Central ministers had made it clear that there was nothing to discuss with the yoga guru.

The 46-year-old yoga guru now also faces heat from the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax department, which are examining operations of several companies dovetailed into two flagship trusts-Pastanjali Yogpeeth and Divya Yog Mandir founded by him. The turnover of the two trusts is said to be over Rs.1,100 crore in 2009-10.

Government has banned Ramdev`s entry into the capital for a fortnight and had bundled him out to Haridwar where he vowed to continue his agitation.