Sehore: Yoga guru Baba Ramdev, who is at the forefront of the crusade against corruption and black money, Tuesday, appeared at odds with the civil society members on the issue of bringing the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court under the purview of the Lokpal.
He wondered at a press conference here as to how top positions like the Prime Minister and Chief Justice of India could be brought under the ambit of Lokpal, while also expressing his desire to not wanting to go into the controversial issue and involve himself in a public debate on that.
Speaking to reporters, Ramdev said, “I do not want to comment on this contentious issue but, in a democracy, if questions were to be asked about the integrity of the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India, then how can there be any guarantee that the person appointed as the Lokpal will remain honest and committed to his duties? That’s why people holding these two posts should be above this debate,” the yoga guru said.
Ramdev’s views are divergent to the position held by the civil society members of the Lokpal Bill drafting committee – they have been demanding that the office of the PM and CJI should also fall under the ambit of the Lokpal.
Reacting to Baba Ramdev’s statement, RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, who is also a member of the Lokpal Bill drafting committee said, “It’s a very important issue considering the fact that Prime Minister has several important portfolios and if anyone sitting on such a highest constitutional post comes under scanner over graft charges the he poses a big threat to country’s internal security,” adding that he will talk to the yoga guru about his reservations on the issue.
Another votary of a strong Lokpal, Swami Agnivesh, expressed surprise at the divergent stand taken by Ramdev.
Agnivesh said, “He (Ramdev) should have said this earlier. He should have talked to Anna Hazare and Kejriwal, rather than going public with his views.”
“We always believed that he is 100% with us on the issue of Jan Lokpal Bill,” he added. Ramdev had lent support to Anna Hazare in his campaign against corruption and had was even present at Jantar Mantar during Hazare’s fast-unto-death.
Interestingly, Ramdev is now - at least on the most important point - on the same page with the government on the issue of the scope of the Lokpal Bill. Yesterday, during the fifth meeting of the joint drafting committee, the government nominees had rejected the civil society members demand that the Prime Minister, higher judiciary and MPs` corrupt acts inside the Parliament should be brought under the ambit of the Lokpal.
“If any enquiry starts against the Prime Minister, then he would lose all authority to govern and take decisions”, government nominees said.
The government also does not want to include the junior bureaucrats below the rank of Joint secretary in the ambit of Lokpal. Civil society activists said what is the point if only 200-odd senior bureaucrats be brought within the purview of the Lokpal.
The three-hour meeting of the 10-member drafting committee ended on a bitter note, with civil society members virtually signaling an ultimatum to the government.
"We are not ready for a weak Lokpal bill," Arvind Kejriwal said, adding, “The meeting was a complete disaster. If one more meeting falls, we are walking out.”
However, Ramdev appears steadfast in his resolve to go on a fast against corruption from June 4, despite the Centre`s efforts to placate him over his demand for action on black money.
"My hunger strike will go ahead. There is no question of calling off the proposed protest till my demands are met, and till talks reach a satisfactory conclusion," Baba Ramdev was quoted as saying.
There are reports that senior minister Pranab Mukherjee would be meeting Ramdev to try and dissuade him from going ahead with his plan to go on fast on the issue. The government had also deputed its topmost tax official to convince Ramdev on the steps taken by government against black money.