Ramdev and Hazare hold fast
Attacking the UPA government and threatening a fight to the finish by August on the black money issue, Anna Hazare and yoga guru Ramdev today sat on a day- long fast protesting against corruption.
In their first appearance on a public platform after an year, Hazare and Ramdev arrived at the protest venue of Jantar Mantar together this morning after visiting Mahatma Gandhi's memorial and Shahid Park.
Ramdev began his campaign issuing a warning to the government to get ready for "fight to the finish" by August and asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to make his Cabinet "corruption free."
"You (the Prime Minister) are an honest person personally. People respect you for that. But you hold the high constitutional post. You have to take care of the political, constitutional and democratic responsibility.
"Your personal honesty is not enough. You have to be politically honest too. You have to keep your Cabinet honest. Then people will respect you (more)," Ramdev told his supporters, who were waiving the tricolour.
Before beginning his fast, he told reporters that he was intensifying the protest to bring back black money stashed away abroad and "I want the countrymen to be part of the fight to finish by August".
Ramdev also invoked the name of Rajiv Gandhi saying when the former prime minister talked about only 15 paise out of a rupee reaching the beneficiaries, it was "ideal" but "when we talk about it, then we are called "khalnayaks (villains)".
The protest also had its share of drama when a man in his late twenties and claiming to be a 'volunteer' of Team Anna campaign, tried to attempt self-immolation alleging that he was mistreated by prominent members of India Against Corruption.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Harish Rawat said Team Anna and Ramdev were free to voice their concern against corruption but they cannot be allowed to "destroy" the existing institutions to tackle graft.
"They have full freedom to voice concern against corruption. But Anna Hazare and Ramdev should understand that in the name of fighting corruption, if they want to destroy the existing institutions, then the country will not accept it...," he told reporters.
In his address, Ramdev claimed that FDI worth Rs 20 lakh crore held the "key" to people involved in stashing away black money abroad.
"If the government names the actual investors of FDI, the puzzle with regard to black money will be solved," he said in an apparent reference Foreign Institution Investors (FII), which can allegedly be used by people to stash away black money.
Seeking answers to the fall of the rupee and dipping GDP from Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Ramdev said the Indian economy will be strengthened if the black money was brought back and the youth were given ample employment opportunities.
Recalling the police crackdown on his supporters last year, Ramdev claimed it was "Ravan lila" played out at the Ramlila grounds. The dais had a picture of Rajbala who died following injuries suffered by her during the police action last year at Ramlila grounds.
"Even Mahatma Gandhi had said that India needs its own laws. But we still have British era laws like the one on land acquisition and the Police Act. We need to remove the archaic laws and have swadeshi laws," he said.
Ramdev claimed efforts by the government to tarnish the image of Team Anna members and his aides had failed to break the movement against corruption. "Whenever we talk of corruption, those in the power and leaders of the ruling party maintain that laws are not made on the streets...We are not against anyone...There is no family feud," he said.
This is the first time that Ramdev and Hazare are sitting on a joint fast. From Team Anna, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Manish Sisodia were the prominent members who joined Hazare and Ramdev in the day-long fast.
The association with Ramdev had been opposed by a section within Team Anna on the ground that the yoga guru was facing corruption charges.
A senior police official said adequate arrangements have been made to maintain law and order