Wednesday, June 1, 2011

PM urges Ramdev to give up fast plan

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday reached out to Baba Ramdev, promising to work for a practical and pragmatic solution to corruption and retrieval of black money and urged the yoga guru to shelve his plans to go on fast from June 4. 

With Ramdev opposing the Anna Hazare group's insistence on bringing the PM under the Lokpal's ambit, Singh accorded considerable importance to the yoga healer's views. "This is not a personal issue. We all agree with Ramdev that corruption is a big problem and we are committed to tackling it with all the resources at our disposal," Singh said. 

The PM's careful remarks came soon after his letter to Ramdev "welcoming his constructive suggestions to improve governance". He also said the government "is eager to work with you and members of civil society towards building a just and prosperous India". 

Keeping Ramdev in good humour is quite critical for the government in view of sharp differences with the Hazare group on Lokpal's powers to examine actions of MPs in Parliament, judiciary and the PM. 

The government strenuously denied the allegation that it was backing off from a Lokpal but did point out that a consensus will have to include opinion other than the Hazare group's views. An unqualified acceptance of the group's views was not acceptable, sources said informally. 

The government is in close touch with Ramdev, explaining its initiatives on black money and the guru in turn did the Centre a big favour by echoing his discomfort over the PM being subject to scrutiny by the anti-corruption ombudsman. The guru, who commands a vast following, also said he was satisfied with some of the government's responses. 

Official sources said it was not clear whether Ramdev would call off his fast as to do so would allow the Hazare group to snigger about the guru being influenced by the government. But it is hoped he will not adopt high pressure tactics and will be prepared to settle for measures or appeals the government considers. 

Singh wrote to Ramdev about finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and officials holding discussions with him and said, "I hope you will now reverse your decision to go on a hunger strike unto death." 

"We will work with Ramdev earnestly in finding a practical and pragmatic solution to the problem. The question is what is possible and what is feasible. There are laws," Singh told the media on Tuesday, hinting that the government depends on cooperation of foreign governments and their laws on evidence to extract black money. 

"We hope Ramdev will recognise we are sincere and serious about tackling corruption," the PM said, adding that corruption was not a divisive issue and hoped all concerned would cooperate in tackling it. 

In his letter, the PM said, "We are committed to deal with the problems of corruption, black money in our economy and illicit funds deposited in foreign banks. We welcome your constructive suggestions to improve governance."

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