Will a political tantric twist India’s destiny?

The movement against black money, including that which is stashed away in safe havens like Swiss banks, is more difficult than the movement against corruption and putting a Lokpal Bill in place.
Baba Ramdev, a Hindu spiritual and yoga guru, has taken up this issue with a long-term political objective.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government seems to be more scared of him than of Anna Hazare because Baba Ramdev has a large network of followers. In addition, Baba Ramdev has the backing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in his campaign, which is likely to widen its base.
Baba Ramdev’s rise is rather miraculous. Having been born in a lower middle-class Yadav family of Haryana, he built a yoga empire by teaching it to health-conscious people of the middle and upper middle class.
He combined yoga with a bit of science and an interesting mix of Buddhist dialectics and Hindu tantra.
Though formally educated only up to the eighth standard, in an ordinary government school, he learnt Sanskrit and English to communicate his yoga techniques. His body movements and the skills he employs to explain yoga made him very popular rather quickly.
In fact, Baba Ramdev’s yoga empire expanded at a rate much faster than Sathya Sai Baba’s spiritual empire, and he now commands the loyalty of millions of people who are ready and willing to be converted into a cadre for a movement against corruption and also for mobilisation of votes when the party he is to set up contests elections.
Unlike other gurus, Baba Ramdev combines politics, morality and Hindu idiom. Apart from his yoga followers who cut across caste, parties and religion lines, a vast number of other backward castes (OBCs) in the country see him as “prime ministerial material”.
The Anna Hazare team emerged from the middle-class brahmanic morality of non-corruption without any mass base. Baba Ramdev is the opposite of that. He has a massive middle-class mass
base.
This mass base can shake the system big towns upwards, if not from the village upwards. His on-going hunger strike will take his image even further, to villages. Baba Ramdev is Gandhi in saffron, with a handsome body, black hair and a beard.
Anna Hazare looks like a farmer of the outmoded type. More people want to see Baba Ramdev than Anna Hazare. If his movement clicks, Baba Ramdev’s party will have a head start.
However, the key question is whom does the anti-black money movement rattle — the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)? It would be a headache for both.
The supporters and leaders of both the parties have black money.
If Baba Ramdev turns into a political leader, one does not expect him to win the Parliament elections straightaway. But his party will be a potential force, like what Kanshi Ram’s Bahujan Samaj Party used to be for a long time in Uttar Pradesh.
At one place it could harm the Congress and at another it could harm the BJP as Baba Ramdev’s middle-class followers are likely to be the BJP’s traditional voters.
While the RSS is supporting him, the BJP has to keep its fingers crossed.
As far as the RSS is concerned, Baba Ramdev is a better all-India package than Narendra Modi, because Ramdev is a very credible OBC Hindu. If he aligns with the BJP, the Congress will have a serious problem.
The fact that a four-member Cabinet team, headed by none other than finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, waited for him, received him and talked to him at the airport on June 1 shows the amount of fear he generated.
Baba Ramdev is a good example of tantric modernity. If he can twist the arms of the state like this today, he can twist the destiny of the nation tomorrow. We do not know in which direction the nation would go under the leadership of such yoga leaders. But one thing is certain. We produced a Gandhi and we have produced an Ambedkar. We now seem to be on the way to produce a Baba Ramdev. If Gandhi and Ambedkar were spiritual politicians who shaped the destiny of the nation in two different modes, Ramdev is a tantric politician who might take it in an opposite direction altogether.
Good luck, Baba Ramdev.

Kancha Ilaiah is director for the study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National
Urdu University, Hyderabad

Comments

This is a wonderful article

This is a wonderful article and you have come up with a very interesting angle to the entire Baba Ramdev episode.

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