Team Anna and Ramdev are like two sides of the same coin. Different physical appearances distinguish the two superficially, but each one complements the other to make an effective whole. The Lokpal Bill, if and when it becomes a reality, will only help in tackling future corruption cases and thus prevent plunder that might happen in future. It will not be able to recover all the money that has already been siphoned off. Baba Ramdev’s demand of bringing back black money and declaring it as national wealth also has a drawback. Suppose the money is brought back and does become part of the country’s treasury, and there is no mechanism for preventing and punishing corruption by then, the money retrieved could well return to the Swiss accounts – where it came from in the first place! This makes it important for both movements to survive and grow together. Both Team Anna and Ramdev have political ambitions and together they could be very effective in fighting corruption.
Having said that, I want to touch upon the controversial nature of Ramdev’s public image. There are three different aspects in which he manages to court controversy – 1. Some of his views are seen as anti-liberal. 2. There have been allegations of corruption against him. 3. His antics on stage, and eccentric behaviour are frowned upon by a section of the population.
I want to present my analysis of all these controversies through this piece.
1. Ramdev is known to be a hater of homosexuals and calls homosexuality a disease which can be cured. While this belief of his is looked down upon by liberal Indians (I count myself among them), it remains his personal view which is in no way connected to his anti-corruption campaign. Moreover, his views on such subjects might well be representative of a large part of our population – he cannot be written off in the fight against corruption, simply because he happens to be one among millions of conservative Indians.
2. Since the Ramlila Maidan episode that took place last year, the Government has been alleging irregularities in the functioning of Ramdev’s organisations. He has been continually accused of tax evasion and forex frauds. In fact, the Enforcement Directorate has filed a case against him for foreign exchange violations of around Rs. 7-8 crore under the Fema Act. For almost a year, the ED has been investigating the case and has found nothing on Ramdev yet. The combination of the Government’s hatred for Ramdev and his supposed frauds should have easily put Ramdev behind bars by now. The fact that heavy Government machinery like the Enforcement Directorate hasn’t found enough to take action against him, despite him being a foe of the ruling party is unlikely, unless of course, Ramdev is actually innocent. The most they have been able to achieve has been the arrest of Ramdev’s aide Balkrishna, on the eve of Ramdev’s August agitation (pun not intended) for forging educational certificates in order to obtain a passport.
3. Ramdev was born and brought up in the Hindi heartland (which is – UP, MP, Bihar and Uttarakhand). My father, who has lived in UP for ten years remembers to have seen Babas like him who behaved exactly like Ramdev. It is possible that his behaviour on stage and his style of speech is completely normal for people in his region. After all, local culture plays a large role in building a personality and for a foreign culture, the actions of another will obviously seem unusual. He should not be judged for acting the way he does. Instead, what he says should be given an unbiased ear because, more often than not, he does talk a lot of sense.
The country needs someone right now who can sort out the systems and correct them. We live in desperate times and a person’s personal views and behaviour should be the last things that should worry us.