Team Anna, Baba Ramdev deny Arvind Kejriwal’s walkout from protest venue

8:15 PM, Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Anna Ramdev New Delhi: Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev today came together for a day-long fast today in Delhi against corruption, the return of black money stashed abroad and a stronger Lokpal Bill. But the fast was not without its share of controversy.

Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal left the protest venue after a speech by yoga guru Baba Ramdev where he objected to stinging personal attacks in Mr Kejriwal’s speech. “Today, we thought that we will not take anybody’s name. But Arvind took names. We don’t want any controversies. Arvind does not have any enmity with anyone. The names have been taken in some context. We are against personal criticism,” said Baba Ramdev.

But the yoga guru and Team Anna member Kiran Bedi both emphatically denied any sort of rift over the issue. Baba Ramdev said on stage that Mr Kejriwal had told Anna and him that he was unwell and therefore needed to leave the venue. “There was one rumour that Arvind Kejriwal left the venue leaving us behind. Kejriwal was unwell, he had informed us,” Baba Ramdev said. Mr Kejriwal too tweeted, “Left the fast venue as I’m unwell, didn’t leave in protest.”

In his address to the gathering, Mr Kejriwal had once again brought up corruption allegations against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and 14 of his Cabinet ministers. Team Anna has faced flak ever since they made these charges last week.

“There are serious allegations against 15 ministers out of 34. That is why they are not passing Lokpal Bill. Manmohan Singh is the leader of those 34 ministers,” Mr Kejriwal had said.

Another Team Anna member Manish Sisodia ruled out any rift between Mr Kejriwal and Baba Ramdev. “Arvind ji is saying I am not angry; Swami ji is saying that I am not angry. There is no rift,” Mr Sisodia said.

Earlier in the day, around 5000 people, undeterred by the scorching heat, reached Parliament Street to show their support for Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev.

While Baba Ramdev got the protest on its way by slamming the government over several issues, Anna Hazare later in the evening told the public to join his movement.

“Be part of a larger family, give a few hours to social service,” Mr Hazare said.

The 74-year old Gandhian said, “We will fight the gundas in India… Sacrifices have to be made to achieve a great goal… We are talking of changing the country; that is not impossible.”

Baba Ramdev in his speech had said, “I was told it’s too hot; I said it doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold… this is the beginning of our protest.”

“The Prime Minster should not just be honest himself, he should be democratically, constitutionally honest. Mr PM you must keep your cabinet ministers honest too,” he added.

The yoga guru hit out at the government saying, “The ruling party says the country doesn’t run by protests, laws are not made on the streets. They say they are representatives of the people… we say the law of the land says the people are supreme… We have laws that were foisted on us by our British rulers…we need new swadeshi laws.”

“If netas are not corrupt, why are they shying away from making a strong Lokpal Bill,” he added.

Today’s protest marks a year of the police crackdown on Baba Ramdev and his supporters in Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan while they were protesting against black money. The police action had led to the death of a 51-year-old woman Rajbala. At the fast site today, pictures of her were on display.

Baba Ramdev started his journey from the Azad Hind Gram, Teekari village near Mundka early this morning and then went to Rajghat, where Mr Hazare joined him. The duo then paid a tribute to India’s freedom fighters at Shaheed Park before proceeding towards Parliament Street.

The police had permitted a gathering of 5000 people. A senior police official said they made elaborate arrangements.

Ramdev was accompanied by his close aide Acharya Balkrishna, while Team Anna members Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi accompanied Hazare. The association with Baba Ramdev had in the past created ripples in Team Anna with a section remaining opposed to have any truck with the yoga guru as he is facing corruption charges. ….by NDTV

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