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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lokpal Bill And The Ramdev Factor

Posted by: danish Ahmed 1:49 AM

If you like me are wondering what the f..arce is going on in the nation's capital at the moment,I urge you to wind your clock back to exactly two months back. A relatively unknown Gandhian Anna Hazare began his indefinite fast protests against corruption on this date which quickly spiraled into a movement supported by the entire citizenry. Within days the government was forced to accept the reasonable demand and constituted the Lokpal bill drafting committee with civil society representatives as members which was just the beginning of the process not the culmination. Now the government representatives are weakening the bill,insisting that the PM and judiciary be kept out of the purview of the law. The government has asked for public input but before the public were even aware of the development the Ramdev saga began and continues like a roller-coaster ride.



It is intriguing why Swami Ramdev chose to start his campaign at a time when the Lokpal bill drafting committee was deliberating on the scope of the bill's applicability ? Before bending to the will of the people, Congress leaders had questioned if there was unanimity on who the representatives of the civil society were, it was Swami Ramdev's questioning of inclusion of Bhushan father-son duo, thus legitimizing the Congress leaders' contention. But what is more confounding is Swami Ramdev's decision to go on an indefinite fast. Such a step is usually accompanied with an immediate demand,when Bhagat Singh and his comrades commenced fast-unto-death,their demand was better living conditions inside the prison at least at par with facilities that British prisoners availed and according to international law. Gandhi undertook fast-unto-death demanding an end to the communal violence in Calcutta. Before Anna Hazare commenced his hunger-strike he had already made public the Jan Lok Pal bill which he wanted to be tabled in the Parliament. In all instances, the demands were something that could be immediately met with. What was Swami Ramdev's immediate demands ?

It is really strange that not many people, not even from the media are asking this important question. Of course, people rallying around Anna Hazare were his supporters but in case of Ramdev a lot of them can be called followers, not much bothered with what the demands were. However, there are some demands it seems but none that weren't in process or could be immediately met or just unacceptable. In fact, the demand for death sentence for corruption suggests that perhaps Swami Ramdev did not want to be taken seriously enough. The government's response to Ramdev's campaign further complicates the scenario.

When Anna started the campaign the government was simply unwilling to engage him until it was forced to but in case of Ramdev, the government rolled out a red carpet, sending four union ministers to receive him.The Prime Minister himself issued an appeal asking Ramdev to refrain and the senior-most Congressman, Pranab Mukherjee called on him thus shifting the focus on Swami Ramdev and away from the drafting committee meetings.  The same day Kapil Sibal received Swami Ramdev shifting the focus of the media away from the drafting committee, here is what Sibal had to say-

"We are concerned that there should be no obstruction in dialogue and consultations, There should be no media blitzkrieg to divert the issue"

And while the government was going all out to woo the yoga guru, at least one senior Congress leader remarked on national television that the Congress was not afraid of Ramdev or it would have arrested him. He did not say why then, four union ministers went receive him and why the ministers were negotiating with Ramdev as he was speaking. It now seems the government had cut a deal with Ramdev and now accuses the latter of breaking it, but if the whole deal now is essentially about openness and transparency why didn't the government itself make it public then ? Was Ramdev being used to create,in Kapil Sibal's words, a media blitzkrieg to divert the issue ?

If the grand old party of India was using Ramdev as a piece in its grand game, why did it then stab him in the back ? While Swami Ramdev is not known to subscribe to the Sangh's exclusivist ideology (might hurt his sales), the Saffron Brigade saw in him an opportunity to attack the government, for the numerous financial scams which occurred under its watch and was mostly perpetrated by its own ministers, but which the Sangh had been unable to capitalize on because of its own handicap. As RSS,VHP supporters began to flow in and there was an apprehension this might become uncontrollable, it was the Congress's turn to shoot itself in the leg. 

Update:
  The midnight crackdown by police on Swami Ramdev and his followers defies logic and has rightly been condemned by all parties not part of the UPA and by the civil society as a whole.Lathicharge and using teargas on peaceful demonstrators including women,elderly persons and children is not only against democratic principles but is also violation of human rights. Ironically, it had almost discredited Ramdev by making his letter public which implied that the Swami had made a secret deal with the government but the crackdown has turned him into a hero.

Unfortunately for the citizens now that the BJP has joined the fray, the Lokpal bill faces the fate of being buried under political rhetoric as the monsoon session of the Parliament comes to an end on June 30.    


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