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Both govt and Ramdev have dented their credibility

Last updated on: June 7, 2011 00:25 IST

Both govt and Ramdev have dented their credibility

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi

After mishandling completely Baba Ramdev's hunger strike, the UPA government and the Congress party is branding the ongoing anti-corruption stir as the fight of people with communal agenda. Sheela Bhatt analyses where the deception lies.

The anti-corruption movement that has picked up since the expose of the 2G spectrum and the Commonwealth Games scam and led the nation's attention to the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi is now acquiring the colour of communal politics.

After seeing everything go wrong in handling of Baba Ramdev's hunger strike even after the Manmohan Singh-led government deployed its most experienced leader Pranab Mukherjee in the battlefield, the Congress has gone on offensive and is out to crush "communal and divisive forces" behind the "tatha-kathit (so-called) Baba".

In a rare outburst, Janardan Dwivedi, Congress's media cell's chairman, who normally speaks only in nuances, blasted Baba Ramdev, his supporters and the Bharatiya Janata Party-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Dwivedi's press conference was the declaration of a new political war. He said Ramdev and the BJP are playing cheap politics to destroy democracy and destabilise an elected government. He said this kind of agitation would drag the country into anarchy.

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Image: Yoga guru Swami Ramdev speaks during a news conference in Haridwar after being forcefully evicted from Delhi
Photographs: Reuters
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Congress goes the 'all-out offensive' way

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He laughed at people who are comparing Ramdev to Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi.  He said, "The government is taking serious action on black money and corruption. Neither Baba Ramdev nor the BJP-RSS can educate the government."

He said the RSS has never participated in any movement except spreading of rumours. He took on BJP for fasting at Rajghat.

He said due to them Rajghat was raised earlier than its time. Gandhi wanted to live upto 125 years but he was killed before his time by the people fasting at Rajghat, he said.

He also blasted Baba Ramdev in no uncertain terms. "Baba Ramdev is a mascot of the BJP. A satyagrahi does not flee in woman's clothes like a thief. He fights till the end without caring for his life. If Ramdev is a saint, he should maintain his dignity rather than playing into the hands of communal forces," he said.

When repeatedly asked about Pranab Mukherjee's presence at the airport when Baba flew in to New Delhi, he said that happened due to government's 'generosity'.

He said basic nature of the UPA government is 'liberal'. He ridiculed people who compared the crackdown at Ramlila maidan to the Jalliwanwala Bagh massacre.

He said those who are doing so do not know history. He also gave full marks and support to Manmohan Singh, saying he is a saint in public life.       


Image: A supporter of yoga guru Ramdev is detained by police at Ramlila grounds in New Delhi
Photographs: Reuters
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Cong's outburst is understandable

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Dwivedi's outburst is understandable. But, as whenever the Ayodhya issue is discussed one will keep mentioning the political act of opening of locks of the Ram Mandir by the Rajiv Gandhi government that triggered the issue, the Congress party has again got tainted by flirting with Baba Ramdev for a few days and then turning against him.

This deception will always haunt the party.

The Congress's top leaders were involved in cajoling Baba and then ridiculing him.

The failure of their strategy only led them to use of excessive police force against people gathered in Baba's name. As per the government's assessment, Baba's meeting was posing genuine law and order problems and some Congress leaders are privately saying Baba was implementing a 'RSS-backed scheme' that could have led to mayhem so the use of police force was the only option left with the government.

If it is true that the government had no option but to crackdown in the given circumstances because more than one lakh people had gathered there and if Baba Ramdev had refused to budge from the venue then it may have crated a situation where the army would be needed to evacuate the crowd.

But if the use of police force was purely a technical mandate to maintain law and order at that moment, then government has to explain the political part of the story that led 5000 strong police to Ramlila Ground.

They will also have to explain why, how and when the government decided to send Mukherjee to the airport and decided cautiously to raise Baba's stature.

Mukherjee's presence exposes the government's less-than-principled stand in handling Baba Ramdev, who was 'the face of the RSS' in their eye.


Image: Congress general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi during a press conference in New Delhi on Monday

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Cong's 'Baba an RSS man' stand will lack credibility

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Now, the Congress's repeated stamping of Baba as an RSS stooge and calling him 'communal' will lack credibility even if there is enough evidence that Ramdev is under the direct influence of RSS or Savarkarite ideologues.

The evacuation plan is one of the worst cases of malfunctioning of Sonia Gandhi's remote-controlled government in the last seven years. This is the clear case of fear that has seized the top leadership in the government and Congress party.

They were so petrified that first they tried to make hero out of Baba Ramdev and now they are out to make him a demon.

It's a miracle that there were no casualties in the stampede but that cannot give any credit to the government who implemented such a dangerous idea of marching to the venue and evicting thousands and thousands of people who were sleeping peacefully. Such action could have been justified when there was no option left.



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One can have many opinions on Baba Ramdev

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One can have many opinions on Baba Ramdev and one should have so after reading the carefully hand-written letter signed by his confidante Acharya Balakrishna in a suite of Hotel Claridges, but the government has made a political blunder by giving life to Baba by sending the police with lathis and tear gas.

It's surprising that the Hindi letter which clearly says that Baba Ramdev agreed that he will keep "tapa" (abstinence) between June 4-6.  This is a clear case of match-fixing. In the letter he also said that around noon (madhyahan) on June 4 he will announce that he will be ending the fast.

He had agreed clearly that the fast is the close-ended affair according to his arrangement with government.

Probably under pressure of various kinds, Ramdev asked his confidante to sign the letter which is highly convincing evidence even in court of law.

It will prove that he did engage in a flip-flop with the government while all along he wanted to enjoy the glory of capturing prime time on television and front pages of newspapers.

He told the press twice that he has reached to an understanding with government and he is only waiting for just 10 percent issues to get resolved. In any democracy, 90 percent understanding on any conflict resolution with government's negotiators is a fantastic success. If his demands were met, as per his assertion, why did he continue his fast?

Baba Ramdev has confirmed that such letter, which is evidence of his abject surrender before the government even before his fast began, was signed by his colleague.


Image: Baba Ramdev during a yoga camp
Photographs: Reuters
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Both Baba and government are emerging as ugly negotiators

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But his colleague and food security expert Davinder Sharma told rediff.com that if Balakrishna had not signed the letter, Baba would have been arrested right there and he would not have been allowed to leave the Hotel Claridges.

Quite fine. People who fight against the government have to retreat sometime and fool the government, which wields brute power.

Even if it was tactic to hoodwink the wily Kapil Sibal, the government's chief negotiator, it doesn't suit the Baba not to declare it before the media and his faithful followers.

Baba is fighting for the return of black money and nothing less. Black money is the direct result of corruption of various kinds. The 'corruption' of his negotiation process with the tainted government should have greatly worried Baba.

In this ugly episode, Baba Ramdev and the government are emerging as deceptive negotiators. Baba's many demands were highly justified but his idea of the actual process of getting back black money that is stashed abroad is vague and his idea of getting assurances from government was foolish to put it mildly, says one of the ministers who took part in the negotiations.

Baba Ramdev has no clue how the government works, what the bureaucracy does and laws related to governance. His idea of democracy is only about street agitations. He says he wants to change the system and not the government. But beyond that he doesn't have primary knowledge of the 'system'.

Ramdev had many weaknesses but the brutal action against him and his followers has changed the game. Ramdev, who was acutely embarrassed by the expose of the letter, has now got the status of 'martyr'.

By sending the police in the middle of night, the government has said that it will not tolerate such protests. The Congress leaders are dubbing the protests against corruption as 'anarchy'.

More importantly, the Congress is trying to be clever by dubbing the 'anti-corruption' protests as 'communal'.


Image: Supporters of Baba Ramdev scatter after tear gas canisters were thrown in by police at the Ramlila grounds on the second day of Ramdev's fast in New Delhi
Photographs: Reuters
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Cong shouldn't forget Solanki's resignation as Gujarat CM in 1985

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One should not be surprised if such a trend succeeds in some measure.

In Gujarat, who doesn't remember how the anti-reservation movement against then chief minister Madhav Sinh Solanki in 1985 turned into communal riots?

When blood spilled on the streets, Solanki was forced to resign.

Since, the government or the party has no convincing explanation for sending Mukherjee to the airport and their attempt to cajole Baba and making him feel like a king, the party is now underplaying it.

In fact unconfirmed reports say that during negotiations Baba Ramdev was told by government negotiators that they have information about his ill-gotten assets, his pharmaceuticals units making 'spurious' medicines and about charges of land grabbing.

Baba Ramdev should have been fixed in the last two years if he has been really making money through corrupt ways but after receiving him at the airport and awarding him so much importance, the Congress is unlikely to succeed in making out a strong case of corruption against him.

The current events between Ramdev and government are a great pointer to all the maladies of the corrupt Indian system and helpless Indians who are victims of corruption. For years, Baba Ramdev was roaming around in country and was expanding like a splendid miracle in Haridwar. No authority asked him how he managed to build a Rs 1,200-crore empire in just 10 years?


Image: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee

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When Baba came in the way of establishment, all hell broke loose!

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Only when this rich and powerful Baba came in the way of the establishment that all hell is breaking loose! Now his so-called corruption is the issue for the government facing charges of shielding corruption.

Before he arrived in New Delhi, sarkari babus dug out information on him and they got the Intelligence Bureau's input on his alleged black money but then they sent Central Board of Direct Taxes chief Sudhir Chandra to explain steps taken by government to bring back black money.

If you believe the government now (on Monday it has leaked a story that the Enforcement Directorate and the drugs department have material against Ramdev) it's a farce that the government played knowingly with Baba! The CBDT chief explained about black money to someone who is now accused by the government of having black money!

While keeping mum about his 'corrupt deeds', the government went to airport to flatter Baba and tried to snatch him into their fold.

The scheme was not totally a flop.

One is not sure what worked on Baba but at the Claridges hotel he had mellowed down and he signed the letter giving away proof of wrong doing before even committing action. And then he saw crowd at the Ramlila maidan.

His ingenuity is a class apart. He knew that the 'crowd' (his followers) are his biggest and only strength.

On the morning of June 4, if the government was manipulative and thinking that they have conclusive proof of Baba's double-cross, Baba was riding on the strength of his followers sitting before their eyes.

Image: Yoga guru Swami Ramdev speaks during a news conference in New Delhi before his fast
Photographs: Reuters
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Baba not as easily manageable as govt thought

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The Baba was not as easily manageable, as the government thought. He focused on 'people's faith' in him and just forgot the singed letter to move ahead.

He didn't announce the end of the fast at 4 pm as decided and didn't declare that he will go home on June 7 as he had told the government.

Even if he never meant it and he was merely 'fooling' the government at the Claridges hotel, his intension of continuing the fast is unexplainable after telling the world at 6.15 pm, through some 70 television cameras before him, that he had reached an agreement with the government and that he is waiting for a letter from the government.

When he didn't announce the end of his hunger strike, Sibal called him and said that he will release the letter. And, around 8 pm Sibal released the letter that exposed Baba Ramdev.

After knowing well that Baba is on his own trip and not worried about the government or not bound by his talks behind closed doors, the government dispatched a brief letter just as a formality.

"The government is committed to a legal structure through which wealth generated illegally is declared as a national asset and that such assets are subject to confiscation."

The message reminded him that since earlier he has already told people that upon receiving assurances in writing he will end his tapa, the message from government said, "We hope you will honour this public communication forthwith."

Ramdev took note of the letter and continued his hunger strike hoping to rise the next day with a new agenda.

In this scheming and manipulation, the government and Baba Ramdev both wanted win-all results. Subodh Kant Sahay, a minister known to Baba since many years, said, "We told Baba Ramdev that whatever we are in position to do we have explained to you. You are agreeing too. What's your problem now?"

Sahai told the media on Sunday that Baba wanted a 'face saver'.


Image: A supporter wears an image of Baba Ramdev at Ramlila grounds in New Delhi
Photographs: Reuters
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The real politics of anti corruption-drive

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Baba told Sibal and Sahai unless he sits on fast at Ramlila maidan, he will not be able to save his credibility because lakhs of people are going to join him. If he announces cancellation of the fast then, Baba told the government, "There will be bloodshed."

What a tragedy!

Baba Ramdev to save his credibility wanted to go on fast, collect crowds and use it as the bargaining chip to carve out his future career, to establish himself against the government and against the Anna Hazare camp in his anti-corruption drive.

And to salvage its credibility and do damage control after prostrating before Ramdev, against whom they allegedly had a dossier of corruption, the government also put at risk people's lives.

By taking police action, the government wanted to show it can be firm too. But it is neither looking firm nor credible.

Both used and abused the 'crowd' which is one the most vulnerable entities in India.

The anti-corruption drive is just an excuse for all to play politics.


Image: Supporters of Baba Ramdev scatter after tear gas canisters were thrown in by police at the Ramlila grounds on the second day of Ramdev's fast in New Delhi
Photographs: Reuters
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