Vasant Sathe criticises govt handling of Ramdev issue

New Delhi: The controversy over handling of the Ramdev issue refuses to die down despite attempts by the Congress and the government to project a united face.

After AICC General Secretary Digvijay Singh and the party mouthpiece Congress Sandesh, it was the turn of senior leader Vasant Sathe to dub as "ridiculous" the visit of four senior ministers to the airport to receive the yoga guru on June 1.

"It was not proper. The whole thing was ridiculous as the government behaviour oscillated like a pendulum from laying the red carpet to the crackdown by the police. One does not understand the rationale," the 86-year-old leader said.

Dubbing the handling of the whole issue as "making a self goal", he told PTI that he had never heard any such incident during the tenure of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi or Pandit Nehru.

Digvijay Singh has already said that he was "saddened" that the four ministers led by Pranab Mukherjee went to the airport to receive Ramdev, while the editorial in the latest issue of Congress Sandesh has also confirmed the divide between the party and the government on the issue.

The AICC has tried to wriggle out of the matter by saying that the editorial was the "personal view" of editor Anil Shastri, who is a special invitee to the Congress Working Committee.

Sathe utilised the situation caused by the controversy to re-emphasise the need for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to become active in politics and Congress President Sonia Gandhi along with Rahul Gandhi as also Priyanka to embark on a mass contact programme.

Shastri, in his tweet, had also said that had "Indiraji or Rajivji been Prime Ministers, they would have never sent ministers to airport in such a situation."

On Ramdev`s demand for a directly-elected Prime Minister, Sathe said that some three decades back he had also campaigned for a Presidential form of government in the country but the idea found no takers in the political class.

Sathe, who has been a close associate of Indira Gandhi, dismissed suggestions that the current situation was like the one in 1975 which had led to the imposition of Emergency.

"Then the situation was different. The situation now is still favourable to Congress and the need is to exploit it in our favour," he said, adding that the Congress-led UPA will be running the government till the next Lok Sabha elections.

Noting that the government would continue due to "TINA" (there is no alternative) factor, he said there was "no capacity" in the Opposition to destabilise the ruling coalition.

The Congress veteran felt that though Pranab Mukherjee is a "permanent fixture" in the government, Manmohan Singh will continue to be the Prime Minister till the next election.

"Who is there to provide new leadership. There is no other person who can replace Doctorsaab," he said. The Prime Minister is generally referred to as "Doctorsaab" in Congress circles.