PM writes to Ramdev, asks him not to go on hunger strike

"This is not a personal issue. We all agree with Ramdev that corruption is a big problem and that we are committed to tackle it with all the resources at our disposal," Singh told reporters on the sidelines of a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

In Madhya Pradesh where he is conducting a yoga camp, Ramdev made it clear that he was not calling off his agitation plan till all the demands were met.

"My hunger strike will go ahead. There is no question of calling off the protest plan till my demands are met and till talks reach a satisfactory conclusion," he said. In his letter, the Prime Minister welcomed Ramdev's constructive suggestions to improve governance.

He also assured the yoga guru that his government was eager to work with him and members of civil society towards building a just and prosperous India. Singh said Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his officers would continue to have discussions with Ramdev on the issues that he has raised and hoped he would reverse his 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 way and what is feasible. There are laws", he said.

Upping its ante, BJP asked the Prime Minister to take a serious note of Baba Ramdev's proposed fast-unto-death for bringing Indian black money stashed abroad and immediately putting in place an effective mechanism to get back the ill-gotten wealth.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, BJP president Nitin Gadkari said bringing back Indian black money kept in tax havens abroad was on the agenda of both the Congress and BJP-led alliances during the 2009 general elections.

"I would like to draw attention to your promise of bringing back black money in 100 days after assuming office... It pains me to point out that the inaction of the UPA for the last seven years on the black money front has led to popular resentment among the masses," Gadkari said.

Congress maintained an enigmatic silence over Ramdev's proposed agitation on the blackmoney issue from June 4 and the government's decision to persuade him to postpone his protest. "We have to nothing to say on Baba Ramdev," was the only refrain of party spokesperson Manish Tewari to a volley of questions on the issue.

The party's reaction to Ramdev's agitation is in contrast to its earlier response when Anna Hazare had sat on a fast-unto-death last month with even party President Sonia Gandhi appealing to him to withdraw his fast.

Tewari said senior ministers of the government, who are also Congress leaders, are members of the Joint Committee to prepare the draft for Lokpal Bill and the party will say what ever it has to say on that legislation through its ministers. Singh steered clear of the issue of bringing the PM under the ambit of the Lokpal.

"I don't want to comment. It is not a question of my personal view", Singh told reporters when asked about his reaction on the contentious issue. Singh's remarks came on a day when the government wrote to all Chief Ministers and leaders of political parties eliciting their views on issues including whether to bring the Prime Minister under the Lokpal.

Incidentally, Ramdev has opposed the inclusion of Prime Minister and the CJI in the ambit of Lokpal Bill saying the two top posts are "highly dignified". The BJP asked the government to initiate immediate measures to track this national property and get it back so that this money can be used for developmental projects to ameliorate the deprived sections of society.

"Mere creation of a wing under the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to track and prosecute economic offenders is not going to solve this monumental problem. Nor would issuing appeals to the Yoga Guru to give up his plan defuse the threatening crisis," Gadkari said.

Sharp differences have cropped up over the inclusion of Prime Minister and the higher judiciary under the purview of the Lokpal with civil society members even threatening to walk out if Government opts to shield these entities.

Ramdev, who has come out in strong support of the Anna Hazare's campaign against corruption, said,"People holding positions in the Constitution should be included in it. But I don't want to get into the controversy of inclusion of the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice; it is a very critical question."

Government is in no mood to relent but will continue with the talks as any move to scrap the committee can boomerang, given how Hazare's fast against corruption quickly caught public imagination, forcing the government to set up the panel after initially resisting.

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