As Anna fasts, Ramdev faces government heat (Roundup)

June 8th, 2011 - 10:50 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi, June 8 (IANS) Gandhian Anna Hazare took on the government Wednesday as he fasted for eight hours amid thousands of supporters at the Rajghat even as Home Minister P. Chidambaram called the still fasting yoga guru Baba Ramdev “a RSS agent”.

In clear signs that both sides were hardening their stands, Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan accused the civil society leaders headed by Hazare of trying to subvert parliamentary democracy after Team Hazare made it clear there would be no let up in the crusade against corruption.

At his headquarters in Haridwar, where Ramdev’s hunger strike against corruption entered the fifth day, his reported statement that he would arm his supporters drew an instant and furious government response.

“The statement is anti-national and action should be taken against Ramdev,” Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V. Narayanasamy said. Chidambaram said the statement betrayed who Ramdev was.

“Let him do that and the law will deal with that,” Chidambaram hissed.

More importantly, Chidambaram said the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) was behind Ramdev. He said the RSS had propped up Ramdev as its patron for an anti-corruption front announced in April in Karnataka.

A Ramdev aide told IANS that the yoga guru had been misunderstood.

The day, however, belonged to the 73-year-old Hazare, whose fast at Rajghat drew thousands of cheering people, both young and the old, and led to solidarity hunger strikes in many parts of India.

“They are putting roadblocks on the path of the Lokpal bill,” the Gandhian said of the Congress-led government, which has set up a 10-member panel to enact a tough legislation to combat corruption in high places.

He said the campaign launched by civil society against mounting corruption was the “second independence movement”.

That drew a mocking reaction from the Congress party.

“A second freedom movement against whom? A constitutionally elected government?” asked spokesperson Natarajan. She said any subversion of the political system cannot be allowed.

Hazare said the primary reason for his fast Wednesday was to protest the police crackdown on Ramdev and thousands of supporters here after midnight Saturday.

“The government should not have done at Ramlila ground what it did,” he said to roaring cheers from the crowds at Rajghat, many unceasingly waving the Indian flag.

“And they did it at 1.30 at night. They lathi-chrged sleeping people. It’s a blot on humanity. It was like throttling democracy.”

But while Hazare compared the police action to the Jallanianwala Bagh massacre, Chidambaram said Delhi Police had acted correctly but regretted the injuries to civilians.

Ramdev, his aides said, had lost about five kilograms of weight since the start of his hunger strike in Delhi Saturday.

And speaking from Pune, a doctor, Parag Sancheti, said the ageing Hazare should not fast frequently.

“Considering his age and his health condition, we suggested that he should not fast frequently as it will have an impact on his health.”

But Hazare would not listen.

“If the Lokpal bill is not passed, I will go on fast from Aug 16 at Jantar Mantar,” he said.

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