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Odishatv Bureau
New Delhi: Top Congress leadership, including Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on Thursday met here to discuss yoga guru Ramdev`s proposed hunger strike from Saturday even as back-channel efforts were underway to persuade him not to go ahead with his protest.

As Ramdev remained adamant on undertaking the fast, the Congress Core Group discussed ways to defuse the situation and prevent the recurrence of events that unfolded when civil activist Anna Hazare went on fast-unto-death in April.

Besides Gandhi and Singh, those who attended the meeting were Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Defence Minister A K Antony, sources said.

The meeting took place even as informal back-channel efforts were underway between the government and those close to Ramdev to persuade him not to go ahead with the proposed agitation, the sources said.

Ramdev has decided to go on strike to press his demand for strong measures to curb corruption and bring back black money stashed abroad.

Meanwhile, Congress put up a brave face, saying the efforts to defuse the situation should not be seen as weakness.

"As a responsive and sensitive government, we are engaging constructively to find real and practical solutions in national interest. This should not be mistaken as a sign of weakness or fear," party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said.

Apparently nervous due to Ramdev`s threat, the government yesterday took an extraordinary step of sending four senior ministers, including Mukherjee, to Delhi Airport to receive Ramdev and talk to him there.

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