Donít target Pranab: Ramdev at Anna stir

FP

On the third day of Team Anna's indefinite fast, Ramdev brought the crowds to Jantar Mantar.

But his disapproval of the team's criticism of President Pranab Mukherjee, a not-so-subtle boast about how when his agitation starts in August, "lakhs" will come to Delhi and the fact that he promised "lifelong partnership" with Anna but made no mention of the three people fasting ó Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai ó gave the impression that the wily yoga teacher had a point to prove to Team Anna.

Ramdev decried Anna aides' targeting Mukherjee over corruption charges. "President is a Constitutional post. One should not criticise those who occupy Constitutional posts. Even Anna Hazare agrees with this. The person who occupies the highest Constitutional office... one should not make comment about him. In the present circumstances, one should not name Pranab Mukherjee. Whatever is there can be seen after five years," he said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, however, wasn't spared. Ramdev accused him of inaction and said India deserved an honest prime minister.

Before Ramdev arrived, Team Anna's desperation at an empty Jantar Mantar ó supporters have largely stayed away from the fast venue ó was obvious. In the morning, there was a mild altercation when supporters protested against journalists filming the empty venue and during the day, volunteers herded people into groups to create an illusion of numbers. From the stage, repeated announcements were made that the police should open more gates to let 5-km long queues of people in though there were no more than 10-12 people waiting at any given time.

All that changed when Ramdev arrived with his 2,000 supporters, and soon Jantar Mantar was populated by 4,000-odd, the highest since the fast began.

It was with evident relish that Ramdev announced that people have already "made reservations for coming to Delhi from August 9 and they will come in lakhs, not thousands. They will stay wherever they can".

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