New Delhi: There was high drama in the heart of the capital on Monday as Baba Ramdev was detained while leading a massive march to parliament to push his demand for bringing back black money stashed abroad. Many political parties, including those supporting the government, came out in open support of his campaign.
Ramdev and around 1,500 supporters were stopped and detained while on their way to parliament, which is in session. Police had a tough time getting his supporters to board around 100 buses as they kept alighting and shouting slogans. They also lay down on the street, disrupting traffic.
Ramdev was taken to Ambedkar Stadium in the evening.
Before Ramdev launched his march, a host of political leaders joined him on his podium at Ramlila Maidan - including Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari, Janata Dal-United (JD-U) chief and NDA convenor Sharad Yadav, Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy and some Akali Dal leaders.
After speeches slamming the government’s “inaction” on black money, Ramdev led his teeming tricolour-waving and black bandana-sporting supporters on a march to Parliament House. But police were there in hundreds to stop him at Ranjit Singh flyover that leads to Connaught Place in central Delhi.
“Ours is a peaceful march. There was no intention to spread violence and unrest. But police are stopping us on the orders of the government,” the saffron-robed Ramdev said, perched on top of a bus, before police stopped him.
“The Congress is not with us,” said Ramdev, sporting a black bandana, as his supporters cheered.
A police official gingerly held Ramdev’s hand to show he was being detained, perhaps keeping in mind the controversy over the police’s brutal action on his sleeping supporters a year ago in which a woman lost her life.
The police had disallowed Ramdev from protesting outside parliament.
According to police, some of the supporters were detained and taken to Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Bawana, 20 km away, while some are being taken to Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium.
Ramdev, whose protest against corruption and black money continued for the fifth day Monday, appealed to the government to heed his demands, failing which he threatened to march to Parliament House.
However, the government remained unmoved. Unlike the earlier time when three senior ministers were sent to the airport to talk to Anna Hazare on his demand for bringing in the Jan Lokpal Bill - for which the government attracted all round criticism, this time no government emissary went to speak to the yoga guru.
Unhassled by the support his campaign had garnered, including from United Progressive Alliance (UPA) supporters Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, the ruling Congress accused Ramdev of fighting a “political battle” in the name of campaigning against black money and said his real intentions have been exposed.
Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi, referring to Gadkari and other political leaders sharing the dias with Ramdev, said Ramdev’s “mask” had come off.
“The real face (of Ramdev) has been exposed to the people,” he said.
The issue of black money also echoed in parliament with the BJP creating a ruckus in the Lok Sabha on the issue, leading to an adjournment of the house.
Sharing the stage with Ramdev, Gadkari said the yoga guru’s agitation “should not be seen from political lenses” and his party did not expect any political support from Ramdev. “We will actively support Ramdev’s agitation against corruption and black money,” Gadkari said.
Gadkari said that Ramdev had “no political intentions” in his fight to bring back black money.
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati, addressing reporters outside parliament, said they would support anyone raising their voice against black money.
JD-U leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Biju Janata Dal chief and Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik too supported Ramdev’s campaign.
Ramdev launched a three-day symbolic fast Aug 9 for the return of black money, a strong Lokpal Bill, and a transparent process in naming heads of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Election Commission. On Saturday evening, he extended his fast and threatened a “revolution” after the government failed to react.