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Now, hysterical opportunists

Never a dull moment in Indian politics — or whatever you choose to call what the nation was subjected to last week that culminated in self-styled activist, yoga teacher Ramdev being evicted from the Ramlila Maidan on late Saturday night.

india Updated: Nov 20, 2011 11:41 IST

Never a dull moment in Indian politics — or whatever you choose to call what the nation was subjected to last week that culminated in self-styled activist, yoga teacher Ramdev being evicted from the Ramlila Maidan on late Saturday night.

The government finally did the right thing.

After days of wooing the man — with the four Union ministers sent to placate the Baba-ji outside an airport — and bending over backwards so as to not be seen as turning a blind eye to his metaphysical demands, the government realised that Ramdev’s show had little to do with pushing the authorities to fight corruption.

Instead, it was an open show of strength of one man’s hold over his followers or fans with hitchhikers joining in. The fact that a cross-section of religious and community leaders joined Ramdev on his stage on Saturday speaks volumes about how a big-enough buzz can be all that it takes for people — the media and the government included — to fall for a brand-building exercise pretending to be a ‘satyagraha’.

But if brand-building was the only ‘crime’ Ramdev was committing, it wouldn’t have merited showing him the firm hand of the law. The problem, to put it bluntly, was the man leading everyone up the garden path — a charge, ironically, that the government is usually seen guilty of.

The episode was a comic farce.

The government and Ramdev holding talks at a Delhi hotel; Ramdev not agreeing to call off his ‘fast-unto-death’ despite the two parties coming to an agreement; the government making public Ramdev’s commitment to call off the fast even as the latter continued his show at the Ramlila Maidan... And what was Ramdev’s explanation for not making his earlier ‘understanding’ with the government public?

“If I had revealed it and if the people left this place [Ramlila Ground] and if the government went back on its word, then what would have happened?” That’s a hell of a lot of ‘ifs’ to base an ‘explanation’ on.

As feared, however, it’s those hitching a ride on Ramdev’s many-many-trick pony who are the bigger concern. The BJP, not a novice in whipping up atavistic feelings when it needs to charge its batteries, has already latched on to the action taken by the authorities against the wild card Baba-ji.

It’s bad enough that the party that refused to have any say in the drafting of the Lokpal Bill is now taking the cheap way out by suddenly coming to Ramdev’s defence.

What is worse is BJP veteran LK Advani comparing the expulsion of Ramdev and his cohorts from Delhi with the dark days of Emergency.

Party president Nitin Gadkari’s comparison of Saturday night’s operation with the Jallianwala Bagh massacre is downright offensive and an insult to the innocents who were gunned down by imperial British forces in 1919.

If the Ramdev episode was a farce, and the voices decrying the government’s action silly, the turn taken by the BJP is truly unfortunate. We just hope that some folks have their eyes firmly on the draft Lokpall Bill.