THERE are still some, sickeningly, who insist that a yoga teacher has no business to fight corruption or to render social service. There are a few more again, who think that they are damning Baba Ramdev by calling him an RSS stooge. The RSS, in their way of thinking, is a fascist organisation.
The Congress Party must know that Digvijay Singh is doing no service either to his own party or to the larger issue by exposing his ignorance. In terms of service to the country, the Congress cannot hold a candle to the RSS. As Ravi Shankar, a columnist, writing in The Indian Express (June 5) noted, “the RSS alarm raised by the Congress reveals poverty of thought and public disconnect”. If the Congress wants to enjoy any credibility, it must sack the likes of Digvijay Singh and Manish Tiwari as Party spokesmen. The Hindu (June 6) noted angrily that “the midnight police swoop on yoga exponent and telestar ‘Baba’ Ramdev and his supporters was arbitrary, brutal and anti-democratic”. “A peaceful assembly had suddenly been set upon and tens of innocent people injured for no fault of their own”, the paper said. It damned the UPA government first for reaching out to Shri Ramdev “in a way that was indistinguishable from obsequiousness” abandoning all semblance of dignity by going to the airport to receive a man who has been denounced as a ‘cheat’ and a “thug” by a senior Congress leader, Digvijay Singh. Granting that Ramdev’s charter of demands contain some that are “bizarre”, the paper said that “every Act and Scene of the tragi comedy, L’ affaire Ramdev’ has exposed the political bankruptcy of the United Progressive Alliance government when it comes to issues of corruption, ministerial misconduct and abuse of power”. And it added for good measure that “by lurching from one extreme to another in unprincipled and anti-democratic fashion, it has miscalculated badly and landed in a deeper mess”.
Deccan Herald (June 6) said the violent action taken by the UPA government “is highly condemnable” and the Manmohan Singh government “has no one but itself to blame”. The way the proceedings of the Drafting Committee on Lokpal have gone and “the diabolical game” the Ministers on the Committee have indulged in to sabotage the whole exercise, has convinced everyone that “this government has no intention to deal with the problem seriously” the paper pointed out. The paper warned the UPA government “to come up with a credible action plan to deal with corruption as otherwise it will be inviting the kind of anarchy this country has not seen so far”. The Indian Express (June 6) said the eviction of Baba Ramdev was “barbaric” and “looked more like an army raid against a foreign enemy than a lawful police action”. “women and children were beaten up in a barbaric display of wanton force that smacked of naked fascism” the paper said. It went on to say that the punitive raid can by no definition be passed off as a preventive action to maintain law and order” but was “a gross violation of the fundamental rights to free speech and free movement”. The paper pointed out that “this could happen again if Sonia Gandhi continues to heed the advice of the sycophants surrounding her, who seem to have specialised in wielding power without accountability and making war-like noises without any sense of responsibility”.
The Asian Age (June 6) sat on the fence saying that while some of the issues raised by the yoga guru “are indeed reasonable”, even so “it would be foolish and dangerous if society permitted half-baked ideas of demagogues to take hold and permit such elements an opportunity to over-run the system”. The paper took objection to the BJP losing perspective and comparing the police action with the emergency. “If it were indeed the Emergency” said the paper, “the party would not be free to belt out anti-government messages from the podium of its national executive in Lucknow”. But the paper was still clear that “popular concern and frustration with the official machinery has been exacerbated by instances of corruption in high places that have come to light in the last eight or nine months, detracting from the government’s moral authority”.
Perhaps the only paper to stand by the government is Hindustan Times (June 6). The paper said the government “finally did the right thing”, realising “that Ramdev’s show had little to do with pushing the authorities to fight corruption”. As a matter of fact, the paper pointed out “it was an open show of strength of one man’s hold over his followers or fans with hitchhikers joining in”. Said the paper: “The fact that a cross-section of religious and community leaders joined Ramdev on his stage 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’.” And it added: The paper criticised Nitin Gadkari for comparing the eviction of Ramdev from Ramlila grounds with the Jallianwala Bagh massacre as “downright offensive and an insult to the innocents who were gunned down by imperial British forces in 1919.”
The Times of India (June7) blasted the UPA government, saying that “it has hardly covered itself in glory”. Its tolerance for corruption, said the paper, “is badly out of sync with the standards of governance that Indians today expect from their government”. The paper said the UPA “favours a carrot-and-stick policy, managing the uproar around corruption through a mix of placating, vacillating and punishing, evident from its handling of Baba Ramdev”. Righting the overwhelming impression of drift won’t be easy, the paper added, and suggested “ratifying the UN convention against corruption” would help. “And may even redeem UPA-II somewhat”. Good advice. But fancy the likes of Digvijay Singh and Kapil Sibal accepting sound advice!