New Delhi: Unlike others in his party, Digvijaya Singh is not afraid of taking on Baba Ramdev, the yoga icon who plans to launch an indefinite hunger fast against corruption tomorrow.
"If Ramdev wants to do politics, he should give up yoga," said Mr Singh, who is General Secretary of the Congress. Earlier this week, Mr Singh accused Mr Ramdev of using his mass-yoga sessions to make crores. This, Mr Singh opined, means that Mr Ramdev cannot be taken seriously as a crusader of all things pure and good.
"Baba Ramdev is not a guru, he's a businessman. If Congress were scared of him, it would have put Ramdev behind bars. Ramdev is more of a businessman now. He charges Rs. 50,000 for teaching yoga," Mr Singh had said. (Watch: Digvijaya upset with red carpet for Ramdev?)
In Delhi, however, the government spent Friday trying to woo Mr Ramdev away from his hunger strike. The Baba wants the government to explain how it will tackle the vast amounts of black money that have been stored in foreign bank accounts by Indians. He also wants the death penalty to be awarded in corruption cases. Two ministers - Kapil Sibal and Subodh Kant Sahay - met with him at the Claridges Hotel - a five-star in Delhi - to address his charter of demands which also includes using local languages instead of English as the medium of instruction in medical and engineering colleges.
Mr Ramdev's fast will not be either a low-profile or a lonely one. His followers expect thousands to show up at Ramlila Maidan tomorrow which has been converted into a sort of Ground Zero for what Mr Ramdev describes as movement that will unite all those "who love their motherland." Famous for the super-size audiences he draws for his yoga sessions, Mr Ramdev is being taken seriously by the government because a similar campaign by Gandhian Anna Hazare met with massive public support 2 months ago. Mr Hazare succeeded in forcing the government to start work on a new anti-corruption law which is being drafted by a team of ministers and civil activists.
Mr Hazare has deflected rumours of differences with Baba Ramdev by committing to an appearance at Ramlila Maidan on Sunday.
But not everyone is impressed by Mr Ramdev's agenda. Actor Shah Rukh Khan has said that Baba Ramdev's proposed hunger strike against corruption and repatriation of black money stashed in foreign banks is politically motivated and he would not support the agitation.
"Koi support nahin karunga...unka agenda hai...jaise hi koi neta ho jata hai...voh yeh sab karne lagata hai (I will not support him...he's got an agenda...as soon as one becomes a leader...he resorts to such kind of agitation)," Shah Rukh told reporters.