Delhi’s double siege

It’s been a chaotic week with Delhi under siege by yoga guru Baba Ramdev. He arrived at Ramlila Maidan with a horde of 1,00,000 enthusiasts to demand that all unaccounted money stashed in Swiss banks be brought back to India.

But, at the first sign of trouble, he retreated; abandoning his flock, he hid behind women and tried to slip away dressed as one.
After his hungerstrike tamasha was broken up in Delhi, Baba Ramdev’s attempt to return to Delhi was thwarted by the Mayawati government. He was intercepted and sent back to Hardwar.
Now, Ramdev has issued a call to arms from his ashram and has threatened to raise an army of 11,000 followers. Clearly, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is associated with him.
Sadly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has got involved with a yoga teacher who behaves more like someone on the run and who — while waging a battle against black money — will soon have to account for all the money that has gone into his 1,000-acre ashram and a business empire of 34 companies, not counting his media and real estate interests.
While the RSS and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad have nothing to lose, the BJP has much explaining to do. It should try to distance itself from Baba Ramdev as soon as possible. Else it will find itself having to justify a man whose integrity is already suspect.
The Indian media, which is being rather indulgent towards Baba Ramdev right now, will soon be outdoing each other in digging up embarrassing details of his ashram and financial affairs. The ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has not covered itself in glory either. The sight of Union ministers going to the airport to persuade Baba Ramdev to call off his hungerstrike was inexcusable.
The subsequent police crackdown on Baba Ramdev and his supporters indicates that someone was trying to cover up the earlier blunder but instead created another mess. The UPA has lost all credibility and the Congress has much to do in the next Cabinet reshuffle.
Shockingly a large amount of black money is stashed abroad and every member of civil society is agitated about this. But does everyone pay their taxes honestly? Is there any difference between black money abroad and black money in India?
I cannot understand why people keep accounts abroad (that give no interest) when they can keep the same in India and earn interest or participate in the land boom.
Every country, including Switzerland, talks about morality but no one will share details that matter. No names will be revealed unless someone hacks the bank’s computer system and steals records, or an obliging security guard finds documents in a garbage bin, as happened in the case of Jewish assets locked up in Swiss vaults.
We need a global movement on this. Will the Group of Twenty (G20) take decisive action and consider suspending diplomatic links with any country that has rogue funds belonging to another country?
Let us pause here and think: Who has benefited from the Baba Ramdev episode? None of the national parties have gained anything.
The BJP will eventually learn from its mistakes and maintain its distance. Instead of looking for religious and yoga experts, it should try to encourage its own cadres to wage a political battle.
In politics, however, every situation has a winner and the benefit here is most likely to go to the regional parties. Look how all of them have stayed silent on this issue.
Everyone will condemn the “midnight” violence and yet no one will welcome Baba Ramdev as he has clear and strong links with the RSS.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati imposed Section 144 (prohibiting assembly of five or more people) to stop Baba Ramdev from staging a demonstration in her state. She will not allow governance issues to be raised in the state and I don’t think Baba Ramdev will have the courage to test her resolve.
The BJP’s plan to use the yoga master in the Assembly elections may not work because before his campaign against black money takes off, he has to explain and prove whether his own funds are white, purple, maroon or a very deep shade of “black!”
As I write this, more lurid details are surfacing on Baba Ramdev and his greed for money.
I think the Central Bureau of Investigation should conduct an inquiry as we are dealing with desperate men with desperate intentions.

NOW LET us come to the second invasion. Social activist Anna Hazare arrived in Delhi singing soothing bhajans and with simple town folk. But the halo round his band of men and women began to fade as charges of corruption were made and threats issued. In a power culture where there is a price for everything, few political leaders will assist him because of fear of reprisal.
Mr Hazare and the self-appointed civil society representatives have started making absurd demands which no political party or system will tolerate.
Also, their confused stance on Ramdev indicates their decision-making acumen. They are willing to go on hungerstrike for the violence committed by the police, but there has been greater violence in Bhatta Kalan in Noida where noted lawyer Shanti Bhushan owns farmland. Will Mr Hazare and his camp take on Ms Mayawati for the rights of the poor farmers?
The sting in Mr Hazare’s agitation is gone. This movement in its current form is not likely to survive. The Lokpal Bill will come as it should, but not under the conditions being dictated by Mr Hazare and the Bhushans.
The UPA can gain ground if it focuses on good governance, otherwise it may face the ballot much before 2014. The Congress leadership cannot remain mute spectators to events fearing involvement and accountability.
The Congress Party does not have a majority in Parliament. It is leading the UPA because of the number game. But times are changing — people are becoming empowered, feudal values are declining by the day and regional leaders are growing in strength.
Both the Congress and the BJP have a very bleak future unless leaders with credibility take charge.
The accepted view in the Congress will be in the direction of Rahul Gandhi and in the BJP it will be Narendra Modi. Time is running out for both the national parties. They must be seen to be effecting positive change.

Arun Nehru is a former Union minister


Ramdev needs to have a

Ramdev needs to have a professional team of advisors with a couple of lawyers of proven standing. a semi-literate like Balkishan is no alternative. The yoga guru should shut up and allow mature persons to do the talking.
If Manmohan Singh can be the Prime Minister and Chidambaram, a lawyer, the home minister, there is no reason why Ramdev should not aspire to be a politician.

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