Fast And Fury


June 17, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 05 No.-1 June 17-2011 (Ashar 03,2068)

Baba Ramdev’s political aasans hogged every possible headline early month. Unlike his highly successful and hugely popular yoga aasans, the Baba’s political aasans went awfully awry.

The cause behind the Baba’s indefinite hunger strike was genuine. He wanted to protest against corruption and ‘black money’ of Indians. Hours after he went on the fast at the Ramlila grounds in Delhi. the police launched an all out offensive against the gathering resulting in chaos and complete disruption. From then on, everything went downhill for the Baba.

Several factors led to the Yoga Guru’s anshan fiasco. First and foremost, his demands had clear traces of unfeasibility. Take for instance, the issue of allotting death sentence to corrupt officials. True, corruption stands as one of the major headaches but dirty and conspicuous politics that is existent in India means that many innocent people run the risk of being framed. Death sentence can result in the execution of many innocent. The call for the immediate return of all black money stashed away in tax havens abroad too is unviable. As Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah rightly said, “black money cannot be brought back to the country with a snap of fingers by the government”.

The demand for abolishing the 500 and 1000 rupee note was equally absurd!

By calling for the replacement of the British-inherited system of governance, administration, taxation, education, law and order with a swadeshi alternative, the Baba tried to show traces of Gandhian thought.  But such pleadings can only be left to the realms of imagination, for it is hard to imagine a developing nation like India to abandon all its modern system and opt for a swadeshi alternative.

The educated middle class which was instrumental in the success of another crusader, Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign only a couple months ago, was also very much absent during the Baba’s movement. The protestors mostly included the Yoga Guru’s blind followers – who mostly hailed from villages. Without the support of the urban middle class, it was very foolish of Baba Ramdev to think that he would succeed. One of the main reasons which might have caused hesitation among the middle class was the politicization of the whole movement. The right-wing main opposition party,  Bharatiya Janata Party, remained a supporter of Baba throughout and the yoga guru’s association with leaders of the Hindu outfit, RSS, turned the protest into a more right wing-like political agitation. In sharp contrast, the Hazare campaign had shunned politicians of all hues., keeping the movement free from political games which largely contributed to mass participation in the campaign.

The drama that followed the police crackdown could not have been worse for the baba who tried to evade arrest by changing into the women’s gear.  The government would have automatically been on the backfoot had the Guru stayed back and faced the suppression. Instead, the government gained more advantage. Anna Hazare, who had shown support to Ramdev and criticized the police action, later claimed that Ramdev was indeed ‘immature’ to lead.  As a political novice, independent decision making should have been the last thing on the yoga guru’s mind.  He should have done whatever he wanted to do only after the consultations with others.

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