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Warning works, Ramdev vacates

Ramdev breaks his fast at Ambedkar Stadium . (AFP)

New Delhi, Aug. 14: The small screen has been the lifeblood of Baba Ramdev’s rise to national prominence.

Today, the yoga televangelist exploited the power of television to squeeze the last drop of publicity he could get as he, along with a few thousand supporters, refused to vacate central Delhi’s Ambedkar Stadium.

It prompted a stern warning from home secretary R.K. Singh, who said: “Ramdev will have to leave Ambedkar Stadium today.”

Police officers then told Ramdev his stay at the stadium couldn’t be extended as it could pose security problems for tomorrow’s Independence Day celebrations at Red Fort, barely 2km away.

The yoga practitioner, who had courted arrest yesterday and refused to move out of the stadium where he and his supporters were released last night, ended his protest this afternoon to retire to his ashram in Haridwar.

Earlier in the day, Ramdev had raved and ranted against the Congress as he broke his six-day fast by taking a glass of lemon juice offered by a Dalit family. He also targeted Manmohan Singh, warning that the “personally honest” Prime Minister would be remembered as corrupt if he failed to act against corruption.

“Congress hatao, desh bachao (remove the Congress, save the country),” he said in an hour-long speech, and added that except the Congress, all parties were together on the issue of black money.

Ramdev, who claimed the support of over 400 MPs, accused the government of failing to repatriate black money. “If there was voting in Parliament on black money, the government would have lost it. If Mulayam Singh and Mayawati withdraw support, the government will fall in one day,” he said.

“…Next time in the elections, we should ensure that not a single Congress leader gets elected to Parliament. Who to vote for? We will tell you later…” he said.

BJP Rajya Sabha MP and Supreme Court advocate Ram Jethmalani, who joined Ramdev at Ambedkar Stadium, claimed many Congress politicians had black money stashed abroad. “Prove me if I am wrong,” he thundered.

Arvind Kejriwal, a member of Anna Hazare’s now disbanded team, tweeted his support for Ramdev’s agitation. “Some people are projecting it as Swami Ramdev versus Team Anna issue. It is not that,” Kejriwal, who had earlier said Team Anna should distance itself from the yoga practitioner, said.

Ramdev defended his decision to vacate the stadium. He said he could have stopped the Prime Minister from hoisting the national flag at Red Fort tomorrow, but wouldn’t.