|In my previous article titled “The moment of truth has arrived for Baba Ramdev”, I had mentioned “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. Make no mistakes about it – It will have profound impact on the future of our country.”
Well a lot has happened over the past two days. Let us see where we as a nation stand today and where do we go from here?
Let us start with Baba Ramdev. Ramdevji is a very successful yoga guru. He has a lot of personal energy. He pours a lot of it to talk about corruption rampant in our country and how to fight it. He also has a great number of people nationwide who revere him and follow him.
However, no human being is perfect. We all have our drawbacks. Even the sly politician Kapil Sibal would admit that he has a few drawbacks. May be Digvijay Singh is the only person in the world close to being perfect. As a writer and a journalist one has to be always careful in not being biased. But I don’t know what qualities these two individual possess that invoke disdain in me when I ponder on what and why they are saying anything on any issue.
With that confession as the backdrop and the observation that it is always easier to look at the mistakes in hindsight than planning ahead of time to avoid them, let us look into Baba Ramdevji’s drawbacks.
He is certainly not a politician. He is not well versed in law either. He is not an expert on negotiations. He is not an economist. These limitations are not debilitating by any means. Any smart person recognizes what his/her weaknesses are and finds people good in those areas to complement his strengths. Ramdevji’s biggest drawback is that he does not recognize his own drawbacks. You can hardly tell the next person in command below Ramdevji on any of these expertise. He is personally involved on all fronts. His boundless energy and patriotic feelings perhaps compel him to be directly involved even in areas where he is not very competent. To be specific, he made the following major mistakes:
1. No clear focus on demands. He had a mixed bag of multitudes of demands that included social, strategic and tactical issues all thrown in one. It even confused his own followers at times. No government, much less the inept UPA, could have given him blanket assurance on all of these. If it was a bargaining tactics to muster out as much as possible, it was poorly articulated and left everyone (friends, foes and indifferent ones) confused.
2. He should have made sure that the Ramlila grounds were available for yoga camp as well as the fast against corruption. If this was planned well ahead of time it could have been achieved. If UPA had balked, there should have been enough time to test it in the courts.
3. While he was negotiating with the UPA ministers privately, he should have had a clearly planned strategy to keep his followers well briefed. It appears that the threat of cancelation of permits for holding fast at the Ramlila grounds caught him off guard and compounded his decisions further.
4. He invited communal leaders at the dais and gave them opportunities to speak from the dais. The communal leaders are citizens of India as well and have the right to speak their mind, but not in this forum. The issue was corruption and its impact on the country. It was not for or against any particular government, sect, caste, communal group or political party. It should have been kept that way. Ramdevji compromised his position on this issue.
Now let us review how UPA handled this issue. If Ramdevji made a multitude of errors as listed above, the UPA government made a multitude of blunders topping all of those with the final despicable act of sending the police to sneak in at midnight and attack the sleeping crowd with lathi charge and smoke bombs. They applied a multitude of strategies that were either poorly coordinated or dumbly founded. They tried the classic carrot and stick approach except their stick was more like a gun and the carrot was poisoned with the objective of killing the opponent either way. They knew that Ramdevji technically did not have the permit to conduct the fast against corruption and made sure to threaten him with eviction unless he engaged in some form of agreement on the issues with them. The truth is that they were sincere in neither. On top of that the Congress party was attacking him by calling him a thug and someone sponsored by the RSS, VHP and BJP.
1. If he did not have the permit to start the fast against corruption, why was he allowed to start the movement to begin with? They “realized” all of a sudden after the carrot approach was not working that the gathering posed a threat to public safety and should be dismantled under IPC 144. This whole approach was disingenuous to say the least.
2. If you are calling him Babaji, praising him lavishly to differ with Anna Hazare on the critical issue of bringing in PM & CJI under the purview of Lokpal, then how can you be calling him a thug and a political threat at the same time? Why are you negotiating with a thug? Are your intentions to negotiate with him genuine at all?
3. The UPA negotiations with Ramdevji was a ploy to offer him something of no real value while holding his feet to the fire that we will expel you on technical grounds if you do not agree. It bares their lack of commitment to address the corruption issue and is consistent with their absence of actions against corruption in the past.
4. It was clear that the UPA government and the Congress party were not on the same page during these events. If it was by a master plan, it openly shows they are both disingenuous. If it was by a lack of coordination then they are both incompetent. How can you expect them to fight against corruption either way?
Enough of hindsight. Now let us look at where to go from here:
1. Baba Ramdev must learn from his mistakes. He should correct his entire approach if he wishes to mount a credible counter attack against the UPA to fight corruption. He has already lost quite a bit of credibility and cannot afford any further erosion of public trust.
2. Ramdevji needs to coordinate his efforts with Anna Hazare and look at the Lokpal Bill as an integral part of fight against corruption. Declaring the black money abroad as national asset and bringing it back home will accomplish little if the present setup is left intact. The money will be a new heap for the unchecked politicians and the bureaucrats to start devouring. There is no room for individual glory in this fight against corruption.
3. The decision by Anna Hazare to boycott the June 6 meeting with the ministers and demand an open meeting from this point on is fully justified. After agreeing on the trivia for so many weeks the government came back with its true color with its latest stand that the PM, CJI and the MPs should be effectively beyond the purview of Lokpal. The negotiations are now headed nowhere. As Arvind Kejriwal keeps asking “tell us where is the room to compromise on those issues?” Aren’t these the key issues to make an effective Lokpal. Isn’t that why we all started looking for a remedy to fight the corruption. Take them away and there is nothing left. Kapil Sibal with his frequent “thoughtful” comments to the press - that the meeting was fruitful and we have more differences to resolve - sounds so hypocritical.
4. Now that the civil society has been, at least temporarily, marginalized by these acts of the government, the opposition parties are rushing in to fill the vacuum. Their demands in the past were ignored by the UPA government. Any progress in fighting the scams has come only due to the direct involvement of the Supreme Court. The UPA government resisted every step along the way. The opposition parties will attempt to direct the public disgust toward UPA to reenergize their fight against them. However, their motives are essentially political since their past actions are not consistent with fighting the corruption. Both Ramdevji and Anna Hazare have to stay clear of joining the movement of the opposition parties even though their interests for the time being coincide.
5. The other real alternative left open for Ramdevji is to knock the door of the Supreme Court and have it declare the actions of the UPA crackdown as unconsitutional and eventually allowing him to start afresh with a new fast against the corruption back in New Delhi. This will not only discredit the UPA for their despicable action, it will lend support to the ligitimacy of any peaceful people movements in the future. The Supreme Court has been repeatedly reprimanding the UPA lately for their unwillingness to fight corruption. Another such reprimand will bolster the cause of the civil society.
6. There is another (somewhat questionable) opportunity available to Ramdevji and Anna Hazare. They could think about approaching the NDA to see if they can draft a bill to accomplish their objectives. If NDA is truly committed to fight against corruption and if they are truly in agreement with the civil society as they actively claim to be to the people, they should take the lead from the civil society, engage with them productively, draft the bill and introduce it in the Parliament. With NDA working from within and the civil society working from outside, the Parliament will be under tremendous pressure to pass the bill. The likelyhood of this going through is very slim. According to Kiran Bedi the civil society members of the Lokpal Committee had approached virtually every party in the Parliament with their Jan Lokpal Bill and requested them to introduce it for enactment. While everyone praised it, no one took any action on it This tells a lot about the state of politics in our country.
7. With each confrontation, UPA is isolating itself further. It is well known that they are corrupt. Now, it is very clear that they have no desire to fight the corruption in any meaningful manner. Even though the elections are several years away, UPA will have hard time escaping the wrath of these events.