Ramlila Maidan fast: Is Baba Ramdev looking for a face saver?



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In Samuel Beckett’s acclaimed play ‘Waiting for Godot’, two central characters wait in vain for someone called Godot to arrive. They wait endlessly but Godot does not turn up even as the play ends.

To draw a similar analogy, Baba Ramdev kept waiting for the Congress-led government at the Centre to take the ‘big decision’ but the decision was never taken. Meanwhile, the Baba kept extending his deadline to give the ruling establishment some more time to think.

As soon as the Team Anna show was over in Delhi, with the announcement of the formation of a political party by them last month, the national capital geared up for another show – a three day symbolic fast against black money and corruption by yoga guru Baba Ramdev (which incidentally was extended.) The yoga guru was back at the same venue – the Ramlila Maidan – from where he was unceremoniously ejected in the middle of the night on June 2011 and sent packing to Haridwar, all dressed up in a woman’s salwar-kameez.

During the days that Ramdev camped at the Ramlilia Maidan starting from August 08, he sent out various tough sounding ultimatums to the UPA government - “A revolution will start if the government does not meet my three demands” – “We will take names who were in fault in this looting of country's wealth” - Prime Minister Manmohan Singh needs to demonstrate "political honesty and will" – and so on and so forth. He also quipped – “India could have won gold if the Olympics gave a medal for corruption.”

He also outlined as to how the black money would solve all the woes that the country is facing today. “If black money is brought back to the country, the issue of price rise will be solved and high taxes will ease. The Naxal and Maoist problem will also be solved,” he said.

However, the yoga guru’s “last warning” to the government seems to have fallen on deaf years. Forget about meeting the demands of Ramdev or engaging with him, the ruling establishment did not even see merit in reacting to his caveats. The most that the journalists could get those in power to react was Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid at his sarcastic best when he made a wisecrack – “Ramlila happens every year.” How times change!

This remark came from the same ruling party at the Centre who had sent five union ministers to the airport in Delhi last year (including Pranab Mukherjee) to receive Baba Ramdev and urge him not to undertake his fast. The government was not prepared for another onslaught after taking a beating from Anna Hazare. The Centre knew that the yoga guru had a massive and pan-India following and his fast could do further damage to its image.

But this time around, having successfully dealt with Team Anna, the Congress party was better prepared to deal with Ramdev. They probably realised that to ignore was the best policy especially if the crowd support is not there. The crowd on the first day of the fast on August 09 was reported to be substantial but it started dwindling during the days that followed. Though the crowd was much more than that at Team Anna’s fast but nonetheless Lutyen’s Delhi seemed to be ready for him.

Also what must be noted is that most of the crowd which converged at Ramlila Maidan were said to be his followers who would willingly obey any orders that he sends out to them. Most were said to be die-hard fans of his Yoga and would travel the distance if asked by him. So it was constantly doubted whether the people came of their own free will and spontaneously at his fast venue because they believed in the Baba’s fight against corruption and black money.

Ramdev has constantly maintained that he has no political agenda and that his only aim is to make ‘India a great nation’. But not many are sure of his claims now. With the government ignoring him completely, the pertinent question is whether Ramdev is looking for a way out? He keeps talking about a ‘revolution’ but hasn’t made it clear till now what would be his strategy. Will he be taking a countrywide yatra to make the common man aware of the corrupt establishment or will he plunge into national politics and take part in electoral process. Or will he align with a likeminded political party, say the BJP, for the 2014 General Elections?

Post Script: With Ramdev’s August 13 deadline about to end and the government not budging even an inch or responding, the Yoga Guru has put on hold his final announcement. Or shall we say he is waiting to find a credible face saver to wriggle out of the not-so-dramatic fast this time around.