Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said police action against yoga guru Ramdev’s supporters was “unfortunate but unavoidable”. He said his government was fighting corruption but had no magic wand to end it.
As the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government tried to reclaim the political ground lost to the campaign against corruption led by the Ramdev-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) agitation, Congress leaders criticised Ramdev’s rhetoric and justified action against his supporters, putting the party and the government on the same page.
“Satyagraha is not a matter of wearing women’s clothes and running away from police. Those who compare religious yoga gurus with Mahatma Gandhi have no conception of what Gandhi really was. It is ridiculous to compare what happened in Ramlila Maidan with events of Jallianwala Bagh,” said Congress General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi.
|THE DAY THAT WAS
# PM says the action was unfortunate but there was no alternative
# Supreme Court sends notice to Centre
# Lok Pal panel meetings to go on despite boycott by civil society members
# Ramdev vows to return to Delhi
# BJP seeks special session of Parliament to discuss corruption
Party General Secretary and Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the action was aimed at enforcing law and order. He said Ramdev reneged on his word to call off the agitation and the government had no option but to prevent more people from gathering as that could have become a law and order problem.
The Supreme Court stepped in and asked Union Home Secretary G K Pillai and Delhi Police chief B K Gupta to outline the events that led to a police baton-charge on nearly 65,000 people at the Ramlila Maidan. It also asked Delhi Chief Secretary P K Tripathi why it was necessary to take violent action against a non-violent gathering.
The Congress adopted an aggressive strategy and rejected the BJP demand that the prime minister and the Congress president apologise to the nation, although there were murmurs that the government should have been more sensitive.
“It is true that there were women and elderly in the crowd. How would they have fended for themselves at 1am? Where would they have gone?” said a senior minister. Party leader Anil Shastri condemned the crackdown.
But the government was intent on proving that it was there to govern. Despite a letter from the Lok Pal Bill drafting committee member Shanti Bhushan that civil society members would not attend the panel’s meeting, the chief of the committee, Kapil Sibal, said the panel would meet irrespective of whether its members attended or not.
“We have a job to do. The PM has announced that the Lok Pal Bill will be introduced in Parliament in the monsoon session. That will be done, regardless of who attends the meeting,” he said.
Government managers were hard at work to repair the damage. The Central Board of Direct Taxes was told to investigate the tax and nationality status of Ramdev’s associates amid information that one of them was a citizen of Nepal and was Ramdev’s main business manager.
The BJP, after a fighting start, went a little sluggish. It presented a memorandum to the president seeking a special session of Parliament to discuss corruption. While party workers protested in several state headquarters and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan sat on a day’s fast in solidarity with Ramdev, there was no clear plan beyond disrupting the monsoon session of Parliament.
Ramdev’s agitation and fast continued at his ashram and he vowed to return to Delhi as soon as his externment ended.