Not long time ago, a khadi-clad septuagenarian sat on a fast unto death against corruption in India. A lot of people followed him. Now a saffron clad sanyasi is doing the same thing and a lot of people are following him as well. However, the differences in two crusades are more conspicuous than the sun in a clear May noon sky.
Anna Hazare was not really well known to Indian populace before he commenced his India Against Corruption movement on 5 April 2011 at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. His main agenda was to get a stricter Jan Lokpal Bill passed by the Indian parliament. I do not recall seeing the Indian youth rallying so strongly for a national cause as they did behind Anna Hazare. The Internet was abuzz with the calls of Anna, Anna, Anna. All the social networking features of the Internet were working in top gear to gather support for Anna.
It was an interesting and never-seen-before phenomenon.
Baba Ramdev, the popular yoga guru, who is watched by tens of millions on TV on daily basis, today began his fast unto death at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi. During the days approaching 4 June 2011, the government laid itself at the feet of sanyasi to pacify him and to persuade him to let go of his fasting plan. But the sanyasi remained unmoved and finally began his fast as planned.
However, something is missing in this act.
I do not see similar enthusiasm in youth to support Baba Ramdev as they had shown a couple of months ago for Anna. There no barrage of Facebook groups, messages, emails, tags, images and poems. In fact people are hardly talking about it on Facebook. And whenever there is a discussion it is easy to see the lack of unity among people. There are pro-Baba people and there are anti-Baba people. Baba Ramdev’s movement is being met with caution and suspicion from youngsters.
The question is why?
Well, there could be several possible reasons. The foremost could be the money involved. While Anna Hazare’s image is that of a typical Gandhian leading a simple life with no truckloads of money –Baba Ramdev is seen as running a business empire with multi-million dollars turnover. It is a commonplace knowledge that Baba Ramdev’s medicine shops are found in almost every nook and corner of the country. He owns a Scottish island, travels by private jets and charges attendees for yoga teaching camps. He has a publishing business of half-a-million dollar turnover through which he publishes books and CDs.
So, is it bad to have money?
No, it isn’t, as long as you are not in Indian politics. Barring a few exceptions (like Ratan Tata) The Indian public typically sees the rich people as essentially corrupt. Tata’s image of a clean businessman has been carefully protected by himself and his team. However, if Tata will make an attempt to get into the politics –his money will become a great trouble for him. Most of the people in India are still living life with below par resources. Consequently, the common man does not relate with the people with riches. As a result, the rich politicians seldom have a smooth run in India. Media and tea-stall chats invariably target the rich politicians and mark them as corrupt. If you are super rich –stay away from politics and declare that money-making is indeed your business.
As they say, behind every fortune there is a crime. Indian public take this sentence verbatim.
Another reason, in my view, is the color of Baba Ramdev’s clothes! Sounds really outdated –but it is likely to be true that a number of Indians see Baba’s saffron rob as his connection with the organizations of hard-line Hindu ideologies. His overall appearance of a sadhu may play against his plans.
Baba Ramdev has openly talked about his political aspirations. He is planning to launch a political party that will contest general elections in 2014. In the same breath, however, Baba mentions that he will never be a prime ministerial candidate and will never take part in the functioning of government. But if THAT is called being apolitical –shall we say Sonia Gandhi is as far from politics as moon from earth? We all know the influence she exercises on the current government even though she is neither the Prime Minster nor is she part of the government. But still she is called the Super Prime Minister. So, Baba’s claim of not having political ambitions despite of launching a nation-wide political party is hard to believe.
All in all, Baba’s campaign is grander in every aspect than that of Anna’s. And that exactly is probably playing against him. Baba has more money, his team is trying hard to project that a large number of people are associated with the fast, he wants to use this agitation as a platform to gather votes and he is targeting a wider variety of demands. He is bent upon getting some of the idealist but infeasible demands fulfilled by the government. The demands like death for corrupt and banning high-denomination currency notes are more for winning public’s heart –Baba himself knows that these demands are infeasible.
In the battle ground of corruption –Baba was checkmated by Anna in first round because Anna grabbed the initiative and played to his strength. Now in this second round, Baba is trying to carry out a blitzkrieg by deploying all his resources.
Will India become corruption free by the efforts of these two men? It is a billion rupees question; lets see how the events will unfold.