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Ramdev’s anti-corruption movement turns political?

By Saswat Panigrahi | Last Updated: Monday, August 13, 2012 - 19:43
Saswat Panigrahi
The ‘Right’ Way

Baba Ramdev’s <i>satyagraha</i> on the twin issue of corruption and black money ended with the yoga guru courting arrest along with his supporters while trying to march towards Parliament.

To be noted is the fact that his three day fast starting from August 09 extended to five days, with Ramdev waiting in vain for the Congress-led government at the Centre to meet his demands.

While some of the observers are still struggling to decipher what Ramdev’s agitation has achieved so far, one can safely say that the yoga guru has succeeded in creating an anti-establishment storm.

This despite the fact that the crowd at his fast venue was not as substantial as the Baba may have expected it to be. However, the last day of his protest did see a multitude of people thronging to accompany Ramdev in his march towards Parliament.

But as was expected, Ramdev along with his supporters was detained by the police and taken to a makeshift jail in Ambedkar Stadium only to be released later on.

Nonetheless, even with the police not seeing any merit in holding back the yoga guru any longer, the show encompassing Baba Ramdev does not seem to be over and one may as well see its reverberations in the days to come.

In the course of his fast Ramdev reiterated time and again that his movement was no "political" and that it had "social and democratic agenda" but reading between the lines one may not be so sure of the same.

Baba Ramdev’s August revolution is the replay of his June 2011 movement, which ended with a mid-night crack down on the yoga guru and his peaceful protesters at Ramlila Maidan.

After taking a beating initially, what added credence and weight to Ramdev’s fast this time around was the presence of key Opposition leaders at Ramlila Maidan and sharing the dais with the yoga guru. The list included BJP president Nitin Gadkari, JD(U) chief and NDA convener Sharad Yadav and Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, who took the opportunity to slam the ruling establishment. Earlier BJD and TDP had also sent their emissaries to Ramdev’s protest venue.

So can it be said that with the presence of a galaxy of leaders, most of them from the NDA fold, a movement which started as one against corruption has ended with it becoming a movement against the ruling Congress? In this context, can one say that the beneficiary of Ramdev’s movement is the Opposition? Or shall one say that the Opposition is hijacking Ramdev’s agenda?

Well there are obvious reasons why the Opposition parties are inclining towards the yoga guru.

Seeing Ramdev’s massive clout, the Opposition jumped on the bandwagon of the yoga guru, to convert it into a wave against the Congress. With 2014 General Elections round the corner, why would the BJP and the likes miss this opportunity?

With the Centre ignoring him completely, the yoga guru has now said that he will go among the people to spread the following messages:

1. The Congress-led UPA is shielding black money holders.

2. The government does not want a strong Lokpal Bill.

Since the beginning of his protest Ramdev kept exhorting the government at the Centre to heed to his demands and take crucial decisions but it was not to be. Despite Ramdev extending his fast and giving the government more time, he got only silence from the other end. Did this prompt the movement to turn political?

Remember, Ramdev wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh listing his demands. His demands included bringing back black money stashed in tax havens, enacting a strong Lokpal Bill and making the process of appointment of Election Commission, Director of CBI, CAG and CVC transparent.

So can we conclude that to ignore Baba Ramdev this time around (after sending five union ministers to the airport to receive him last year) was a well thought out strategy on the part of the ruling party?

The government is free to ignore the yoga guru, but it can’t afford to brush aside the issues he raised. But so far the Congress-led UPA has shown no effective, meaningful or visible action to rein in corruption and bring back black money.

The moot question is – Will the grand old party have to pay a price for this in the next General Elections?

First Published: Monday, August 13, 2012 - 19:43

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