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1975 again? BJP says yes

With many leaders unable to resist a comparison between Delhi police’s midnight swoop on Baba Ramdev and the events of 1975-77, the big question is whether the opposition can unite and succeed in building up a major campaign against the Congress again?

delhi Updated: Jun 05, 2011 23:31 IST
Shekhar Iyer

With many leaders unable to resist a comparison between Delhi police’s midnight swoop on Baba Ramdev and the events of 1975-77, the big question is whether the opposition can unite and succeed in building up a major campaign against the Congress again?

At that time, the Congress was routed in the elections held after the Emergency as disparate groups united under the banner of an iconic Jayaprakash Narayan to successfully question Indira Gandhi’s supremacy and ultimately dethroned her.

This time too, from LK Advani to Narendra Modi, several BJP leaders on Sunday sought to do precisely that.

They have quickly drawn a parallel between the high drama at Ramlila and the events of 1975, when the arrests of opposition leaders followed JP’s call for “sampoorna kranti” (total revolution) on June 5, 1974, and later led to a powerful ‘Indira hatao’ campaign.

Though wary of Baba Ramdev’s political plans for a long time, the BJP lost no time to show it was his main backer and even the rightful leader to the movement after the crackdown.

Top leaders, including Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari, not only said the police action was reminiscent of the Emergency days, but also alleged that Congress was not ready to discuss the corruption issue through democratic means like that period.

Even as they admitted that they did not agree with all the issues raised by Ramdev, they supported the “spirit” of his movement, recalling that it was Advani who had raised the black money issue first in 2009.

But, as party leaders admit, the BJP’s problem is manifold, least of which is the absence of an iconic leader — like JP — on its side. Also, the party finds that it is not on a strong wicket on the issue of corruption, having been forced to be on the backfoot against the Congress’s charges of sleaze in Karnataka and Chhattisgarh.

But it cannot resist the temptation of seeking an opportunity in cashing in on the public mood sought to be built on the eviction of a ‘saffron-clad’ baba.

Of course, some leaders argue that the issue is important and not an acceptable face to lead the movement right now. Others say that is the crux of the BJP’s dilemma.

Incidentally, Ramdev is backed by RSS-linked leaders such as Govindacharya who are not favourably disposed towards the BJP. In fact, their reason for backing the baba is because they think the BJP is not “ideologically” pure anymore and has failed to lead an anti-corruption movement.

The Congress’s immediate worry, however will be to assess and contain any damage to the UPA’s image and show that Manmohan Singh is determined to crackdown on corruption and unearth black money.