'Why is Baba Ramdev claiming to be apolitical?'
Apart from Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh, social and human rights activist and advocate Nandita Rao is fast emerging as a staunch opponent of Baba Ramdev's fight against corruption.
While she doesn't have any personal grudge against the yoga guru, she strongly pitches for accountability from not only politicians but also from those in civil society who are raising a banner of revolt against India's politicians to weed out corruption from India.
Among other things, advocate Rao spoke to rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore about why she wants Baba Ramdev to come clean on how he built a Rs 1,100 crore empire, how he got huge plots of land in some Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states and why is he claiming to be apolitical when he is openly seeking support from the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Why are you so vehemently opposed to Baba Ramdev's campaign against corruption?
I am not vehemently or personally opposed to Baba Ramdev but just as a common citizen who has agitated against corruption and who gets upset by corruption, inflation etc.
When the agitation by India Against Corruption started I, too, like other ordinary citizens, went to Jantar Mantar and spent two whole days there as part of the people's agitation. All political parties are equally corrupt.
And then I found out from various people and groups that Baba Ramdev is very closely associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the RSS, and that the IAC rallies organised around the country by Baba Ramdev were actually being arranged by the VHP and RSS.
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Image: A poster announcing Baba Ramdev's satyagraha and (Inset) Nandita Rao
'Common man has a right to know Baba Ramdev's agenda'
While everybody has a democratic right to oppose, you cannot be political and call yourself apolitical. If you are doing that, you are deceiving the common public. Also, the common man in the street has a right to know your agenda.
Do you think Baba Ramdev has an agenda different from his fight against corruption?
Yes. I think Baba Ramdev is clearly a proxy for the BJP and RSS, as the BJP cannot come out openly against corruption since they have lost all their credibility in Karnataka where Chief Minister Yeddyurappa is also facing charges of corruption. So they (the BJP through the IAC) are trying to create a people's agitation, which is actually being manned by their (RSS and BJP) own people.
Then I sent an email to Baba Ramdev's Facebook page asking what is your political agenda, and I got back a reply saying yes, I believe in RSS's (ideology). I wrote back saying 'you are claiming to be apolitical' and then the person who handles Baba Ramdev's Facebook page replied saying that he was simply Baba's follower -- an NRI sitting in America -- and that he was only writing his views about the yoga guru.
Image: Baba Ramdev
'An empire by teaching yoga? I don't believe that'
Did this follower have Baba Ramdev's assent to reply on his behalf?
He claimed that he didn't, but he was conducting Baba Ramdev's Facebook page.
When I asked him if he could get me Baba Ramdev's response to my e-mail, there was no reply. But now it is quite obvious by the way the RSS is openly supporting Baba Ramdev. Does he need the RSS's support if he is claiming to be apolitical?
Baba Ramdev should tell them (the BJP) to clean up their act in Karnataka. He must have said 'we (the IAC) don't want your support'. Tomorrow, if Andimuthu Raja (former telecom minister in jail for involvement in the 2G scam) supports Baba Ramdev's agitation, will he also take his support?
Secondly, I wrote an e-mail to him and all the people in the IAC telling them that there is a legal system, there is an accountability system, there is the Right to Information Act by which a common citizen like me or you can make an MP or a judge, a minister or a government accountable.
Then why should all these civil society members be above accountability? If these people are representing themselves as our spokespersons, then we do have a right to know their political allegiance and agendas.
Then I requested Baba Ramdev to disclose all their assets on the web site of IAC -- Rs 1,100 crore is a lot of money. If he claims that he has earned this money by teaching yoga in six years, then I am sorry I don't believe that. We would like to know if Baba Ramdev is asking people who are paying him money for their tax returns. Is he enquiring from where they are getting their money? Is he asking them if it is white (accounted for) money?
Image: Baba Ramdev
'Why is he taking the support of corrupt parties?'
Are you saying that it is another form of money-laundering happening?
No, I am not alleging anything like that. All I am saying is, be accountable. If you are telling the government to be amenable to the Lokpal (bill), you should be amenable to the RTI. If you as ordinary citizens are taking to political activism, how should you be above it (accountability)? If I am writing an email to you on record, then why should you ignore me or not reply to my queries?
So all you are seeking is accountability on from where and how this Rs 1,100 crore has come?
Yes. And the land that he has got, has he got it by the tender process? Why was only he selected by the BJP governments in Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkand for getting these huge plots of land?
There are allegations that you are a Congress proxy, just like your allegation that Baba Ramdev is a BJP proxy.
I am not alleging anything. I am just asking Baba Ramdev why he is taking the support of political parties who are corrupt. Is A Raja the only corrupt individual in this country? When the BJP and RSS are openly supporting Baba Ramdev, why are they mum about corruption charges against one of their own chief ministers?
I would want Baba Ramdev to tell them that he doesn't need their support because I am fighting against all corruption.
Image: Baba Ramdev
'Civil society activists should be accountable'
Do you believe that Baba Ramdev is a proxy for the BJP and RSS?
Yes, and the people of this country have rejected communal and corrupt politics.
And I am no spokesperson for the Congress party. Otherwise, I would have not gone to Jantar Mantar and stood in the hot sun in support of Annaji when the IAC movement started. But the IAC activists have to be amenable to the same accountability that they expect from this country's politicians.
Do you think the agitation led by Anna Hazare was also supported by the BJP and RSS?
I e-mailed Anna Hazare, Prashant Bhushan, Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal telling them that the people on your platform, SriSri (Ravishankar) and Baba Ramdev, are the known donors of the BJP. Ramdev has given Rs 30 lakh as political donation to the BJP and that they have shared a platform with (Gujarat Chief Minister) Narendra Modi. I requested them to clarify the political stance of the IAC. I received no response from anybody.
Image: Baba Ramdev
'Anna should have had moral courage to tell Ramdev to stop'
Today, when they are still sitting on the Lokpal committee and when their leader (Baba Ramdev) is starting a parallel agitation, are they (Anna Hazare etc) asking Baba Ramdev to stop it?
I think Anna Hazare, who we have great respect for, should have had the moral courage to tell Baba Ramdev to stop this parallel movement even as the IAC members are deliberating on the nuances of the Lokpal bill. This is not acceptable.
Image: Anna Hazare