New Delhi: Bundled out in the middle of night in June 2011 after a police crackdown, Yoga guru Ramdev on Thursday returned to Ramlila Maidan demanding immediate action to enact a strong Lokpal and steps to bring back black money stashed away in foreign banks, calling it a decisive battle against the government.
With his three-day fast against black money, Ramdev also seems to be shifting the Lokpal Bill battle away from Anna Hazare and his team. He has vowed to expose all those involved in tax evasion and money laundering. He claimed that he has no political agenda and that he is open to talks with all political parties. Approximately 6,000 to 7,000 people were present at the venue on Thursday.
"I am not against any political party. We don't aim to dislodge anyone from power. My doors are also open for Sonia Gandhi. I have no political agenda. My only agenda is to protect our nation's prosperity. I am sitting on a symbolic fast for 3 days," Ramdev said.
Ramdev clarified that he was not on an indefinite fast, but a three-day symbolic fast at the Ramlila Maidan. "No indefinite anshan, only a symbolic fast for three days," Ramdev said.
Taking an apparent dig at Ramdev's second agitation at Ramlila grounds, Law Minister Salman Khurshid on Thursday said that Ramlila is performed every year. "Ramlila takes place every year. Similarly in a democracy, people have different opinions which they display regularly. Since it is happening before the people, they will make a decision (on whether they accept the opinion)," he told reporters.
Khurshid also said that the government is doing its job on the black money issue. "Government is doing its job. We are already working on it (black money)...discussing the issue, he said. The Minister said there are two aspects of the issue. "First the root of the generation of black money and then how to control it. Government is doing its job," he said.
The second round of Ramdev's protest has witnessed an expansion of his agenda from black money to Lokpal Bill, making CBI independent and a more transparent procedure for appointing Election Commissioners, CAG, CVC and CBI Director.
His previous protest at Ramlila Maidan from June 4, 2011 ended in a midnight police crackdown on June 6 morning with authorities claiming that he violated the norms agreed upon. He was caught by police while trying to flee from the venue in woman's attire.
Anna Hazare was not present on the first day of the fast though he had earlier declared that he will join the protest. However, Ramdev said that Anna Hazare was still supporting him and that the fight for the Lokpal bill wasn't yet over. Speaking at the Ramlila Maidan, Ramdev said, "The government will be forced to bring Lokpal."
Ramdev's protest comes a week after Anna Hazare called off his fast and disbanded his team which has decided to take a political plunge.
Ramdev reached the venue on Thursday morning to a thunderous welcome from his supporters. Before coming to the venue, he visited Raj Ghat, Mahatma Gandhi's memorial.
A poster showing Ramdev's close aide Balakrishna alongside Mahatma Gandhi and other freedom fighters at his protest venue triggered a controversy following which the yoga guru expressed regret. The poster, which ran into trouble had Balakrishna's image along with that of Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose and other freedom fighters.
As soon as TV channels ran a news story about the controversial posters, the organisers suddenly removed it from the protest venue at Ramlila Maidan.
(With additional inputs from PTI)