|After all the fanfare, frantic meetings initiated by the UPA government, frequent television and press interviews, criticisms from the Congress Party and widespread support by a cross section of the nation, the moment of truth has arrived for Baba Ramdev. Starting tomorrow, he will sit down on a fast till death to demand acceptance by the UPA government on a host of points.
As you read and listen to this vast information frantically being crammed down lately by the media often with conflicting views, it is hard not to feel bewildered by all this. There is no doubt that a major storm is on the horizon about to hit the nation. With the wind are the dust and debris and the noise that cloud the view and clarity of perception as we prepare to go through this. Let us see if we can sort out a few major issues:
1. Is there a political agenda behind this movement?
We don’t know for sure. Any such statement at this point is speculation. In a few days only it will become clear. In past Ramdevji has threatened to start his own party to participate in forthcoming elections. However, the motive behind such statements was still the fight against corruption. He was not happy with any of the existing parties including Congress and BJP and their alliances in their sincerity to fight against corruption. He may have changed his tactics and adopted the Satyagraha instead, but the motive force is still the same: fight against corruption. Nobody knows for sure what exactly is in his mind and what he might do in the future. But this is an area of speculation and opinions only without any facts. As things stand right now, there is no reason to doubt his sincerity to fight against corruption. I am making the assumption that the rest of the country, except those with vested interests to the contrary, also wants the same.
2. Are RSS and BJP using Ramdevji as their front to advance their political agenda?
There are two elements within this question:
1. Are RSS and BJP using Ramdevji for their political gains? and
2. Is Ramdevji willingly subscribing to their agenda?
As far as RSS and BJP are concerned, they are free to pursue whatever political goals they may have, no more or less than the recent actions by UPA. However, there are no tangible proofs that Ramdevji is willingly subscribing to their agenda. If that was the case, he could have just joined BJP earlier instead of announcing formation of his own potential party to fight corruption. He may have had close associations in the past with RSS and BJP and others for that matter (and I personally do not have much information to support or deny that), but there is no evidence that ulterior causes are being promoted by him during this movement.
3. Is there a personal political agenda on part of Ramdevji?
Let us first understand what we mean by political agenda. Typically political parties join a cause or a movement with the primary purpose of unseating the opposing party and gaining power themselves. The reasons for starting such a movement, on Ramdevji’s part, could be partly or completely disingenuous. Again, there are no clear evidences to support it. His commitment to fight against corruption and the efforts and energy he has put in over the past several years cannot be questioned.
4. Is the movement well thought out and properly focused?
This is where there are genuine questions that can be raised. There is no doubt that the war against corruption is on justifiable grounds. However, any war is won one battle (at most a few battles) at a time. The timing, sequence and the tactics for each battle are carefully picked and are synergistic to the forthcoming battles to eventually win the war.
Ramdevji has wide arrays of issues he is demanding solutions to. While each of these issues may be justifiable on its own, some are more urgent and justified than the other. For instance, to declare the black money abroad as a national asset and bring it home is a reasonably justifiable demand. Very few people indeed (unless they have vested interests to the contrary) will object to it and most will support it actively. At the same time bringing in Hindi or regional languages in higher education in scientific fields may be a very difficult task and cannot be achieved in near term simply by passing legislation. It requires further national debate and well thought out strategy to implement. Even if the government agrees with it, you wonder how genuine is their commitment to make it happen? I am not necessarily against it, but to combine this issue with the fight against corruption on a single platform at this point in time is questionable. Similarly, the advocacy to include death penalty to those found guilty of deliberately stashing black money abroad, is a tactical and legal issue that does not need to be part of the platform right now.
Ramdevji needs to be highly focused on the platform of his demands and drop (or postpone) a few of them to bring clarity to his movement. May be it is part of the strategy to demand as much as you can in the hopes of winning a few. However, no government, particularly the UPA, can implement all these changes, even if they were genuinely in support of these. Ramdevji has to make sure that what he is demanding can be handled by the government.
5. Is the government genuinely trying to fight the corruption making Ramdevji’s movement redundant?
The answer to this question is a resounding NO! All the governments that have been in power since past 50+ years have only made the situation worst. Corruption in government has grown at an exponential rate due to deliberate new regulations to keep the politicians and bureaucrats out of reach of law. There is no real need to explain this any further. To prosecute a politician or a bureaucrat in office right now the prosecuting agency has to beg to see if he/she (or his/her likewise superiors) agrees to be prosecuted.
The doctrine of self-vigilance with conveniently supporting regulations under the guise of the constitution is the most destructive force that has ravaged and pillaged our country.
All the sincerity and urgency being displayed by UPA is simply to avert current political disaster for them and belies their past actions. They have made any steps suggested against corruption ineffective by perpetually deliberating it until death. When they agree to any such demands under public pressure, it is only to diffuse the issue by attacking the proponents and paralyzing it with endless and fruitless deliberations. It is so evident when you watch their actions carefully in how they are handling the drafting of the Jan Lokpal Bill. Their record is dismal and abysmal. They have no credibility with the public whatsoever.
6. Are these civil society movements blackmailing the democratic process?
I have written on this several times in the previous articles in this forum. Anybody who says that either does not understand what democracy is all about or has ulterior motives. At the risk of being repetitive I offer the following from my earlier articles:
“There is no doubt whatsoever that our government is the single biggest instigator, perpetrator and perpetuator of corruption in the country. How do you convince and motivate a corrupt body to cleanse itself by itself?”
“There are some fundamental questions being raised about the government. Does it have the fundamental and absolute right to be the custodian of assets of the people to the exclusion of the same people? Does it still have to answer to these people, everyday of its five year term, as to how good a job it is doing in managing their assets? If so, how? Are the mechanisms to allow this accountability built within our democratic constitution? If so, why are they not working? If not, how can they be restored? Who will restore them? Can the same elements that have distorted and denigrated the system be trusted to restore it? Who is the ultimate sovereign here: the elected representatives, the bureaucrats or the people? What if their vested interests are significantly different?
First of all let us understand clearly that it is the fundamental right of a citizen of democracy (India) to speak out on what he/she believes in and has grievances against the actions being pursued by the government. It is within his/her fundamental rights to peacefully protest against any such actions or policies including undertaking fasts to press his/her demands. It is up to the people of India to support or reject any such actions as they see fit. None of this hijacks any due democratic process.”
7. Should members of political parties be allowed to join Ramdevji’s movement?
Members of any political parties are also the citizens of India. They should have the freedom to oppose or support any movements inside or outside the political system. Ramdevji claims that his movement is not against any particular party and has no political agenda. To reinforce this stand and to keep the movement effective in the eyes of the nation, it is imperative that while he should welcome anyone in the camp who wishes to support the movement, no politicians should be allowed to share the dais and speak from it. They may have their own forum to sound their views but not from the dais. It is critical to keep this forum very limited at best. The politicians have had their opportunities in the past. They also have the ability to independently attract the press any time they wish. Again, it is not a bias against the politicians. However, simply by association with any political party, they are part of a system that has been instrumental in the growth of corruption. They can be also viewed as advancing their own party’s agenda against the current ruling party.
The crusaders against corruption have to realize that they are all on one team and there is no room for individual glory. Any selfless cause has to be supported by a totally unselfish approach. That is what is Satyagraha! Next few days are very critical for Ramdev, UPA and Anna Hazare. Let us see who have the perseverance and the right strategy to succeed.