Baba Ramdev: The Anna Hazare copy-cat
When fasting becomes a publicity stunt it’s dangerous, pure and simple. Neither is Baba Ramdev's anti-corruption call within the law, nor does it find effective solutions.
The battle against corruption is turning into the theatre of the absurd. After Gandhian Anna Hazare caught the imagination of the nation with his four-day fast over the Lokpal Bill last month, Baba Ramdev proposes to do a copycat act. He will undertake a fast-unto-death in June demanding, among other things, a ban on currency notes of high denomination. "High value notes facilitate corruption." Their elimination will bring down corruption too, maintains the Yoga guru.
The Baba's wisdom is hard to digest. Moreover, his call not only reflects the growing tendency to promote personal prejudices in the guise of anti-corruption crusade but also the reckless confidence in the civil society that the government could be arm-twisted at will. Hazare’s movement, though well-intentioned, reflected some disregard for democratic and constitutional practices. Ramdev's move could be an invitation to anarchy. His movement is flawed on too many parameters and it could end up discrediting civil society.
The confrontational tone of Hazare's movement was tempered by the air of innocence and honesty exuded by its leader. The groundswell of support for him and the differential treatment accorded to him by the government was a tribute to his stature and achievements. Ramdev does not have the same moral stature and he is not seen to be apolitical. It is difficult to imagine him drawing the same respect across classes. Moreover, he seems to be in a hurry to make the anti-corruption movement his own.
"Annaji's agitation was on the single issue of Lokpal Bill. We have to take the agitation to the next level," he said, while answering a question whether his own satyagraha meant de-linking from Hazare. That’s where the fear of the original movement losing its character grows from. The tactical effectiveness of satyagraha or fast unto death was in its sparing use. It will indeed lose its significance from overuse. Even the original proponent of the protest tool, Mahatma Gandhi, advocated its sparing use. Imagine everybody resorting to fast to force the government into action…
There’s more reason why Ramdev's movement is unacceptable. It reflects a simplistic understanding of larger issues and irresponsible ignorance of the constraints of the government. The call to bring back black money stashed abroad is guaranteed to draw public applause. But is it as easy as the Baba makes it out to be? The Supreme Court is seized the matter and not much has come off it even after months of goading the Enforcement Directorate and other agencies. Does he come up with solutions to tackle issues by law?
To be fair to Anna Hazare's movement, it had a blueprint to take the Lokpal Bill ahead. Though a bit overenthusiastic, it still was a product of serious thinking involving some of the country’s veteran activists. Unfortunately, Ramdev does not have anything fresh to offer by way of solutions. He loves playing to the gallery. He’s doing so here.
Coming back to the issue of currency notes, we'd like to ask: Does the Baba insist that his followers make offerings only in low denomination notes?
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