Why grudge 'political' protests

Handle all such protests politically


Prasanna Mohanty | June 6, 2011

Policemen occupying the venue of Baba Ramdev`s fast after the midnight crackdown
Policemen occupying the venue of Baba Ramdev`s fast after the midnight crackdown

Under fire from all quarters, the government's chief negotiator and HRD minister Kapil Sibal justified police action against Baba Ramdev and his followers a day after on the plea that the man in saffron had 'politicised' the issues and turned his yoga shivir into a 'political stage'.

The Congress party, which leads the coalition government, also came to the same conclusion after UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi had a brainstorming session with her 'core group' and declared that a counteroffensive would be launched against the 'political and communal forces'.

The implication is clear. Both the Congress and the government it leads see 'politicisation' of the Baba’s fight against corruption and black money as a necessary evil that has to be crushed.

But what, pray, is 'political' if the fight against corruption and black money is not? Even a layman understands that politics is something that has anything to do with running the affairs of a state and this would make the movement of Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare eminently 'political'.

Or do the Congress and its government at the centre think that politics is the sole prerogative of the political parties that contest elections and therefore of their members who 'represent' people in our representative democratic set-up? If that be the case, why doesn't a democratically elected leader dare to lead a movement against corruption and collect a huge crowd at the Ramlila Maidan instead?

Truth be told, no politician, notwithstanding the number of elections he or she may have won, today commands the kind of credibility and following that Baba Ramdev, and Anna Hazare before him, has demonstrated, at least on the issue of corruption and black money.

The rise of Ramdev and Anna is symptomatic of a political vacuum. By undermining them both the ruling coalition is only creating more trouble for itself. It only shows that the government is insincere or worse. The crowd at the Ramlila grounds was holding a peaceful demonstration against the government’s failures and there was, therefore, little justification in using brute force of the state.

Some of the political commentators acting as self-appointed advisors of the government of the day also seem to have little understanding of democracy and politics. They think democracy for people means casting of their votes and that politics is all about what the elected representatives do.

One eminent commentator has asked Ramdev and Anna to “first prove their popularity at any election”. If election is the criteria, prime minister Manmohan Singh has no business being what he is. The only election he ever contested happened in the late 1990s and he lost. Even after being a prime minister for the second time in a row he can’t dare contest again.

So far as “poor Digvijay Singh, fighting a lonely battle in a lost cause, a forlorn, modern-day Jhansi ki Rani”, is concerned, he lost Madhya Pradesh after two consecutive terms as chief minister to a simple promise of the BJP: "bijli, sadak aur pani". If in his ten years of running the government in Madhya Pradesh he couldn’t provide the basic needs like bijli, sadak and pani to his people, what kind of battle is he capable of fighting?

Besides, this commentator has poor sense of both history and contemporary politics. The Jhansi ki Rani fought against the British colonial rule. Here, Digvijay Singh is fighting against two citizens, Anna and Ramdev, who are fighting corruption. That would make Digvijay’s fight a fight to perpetuate corruption and black money, hardly something the Jhansi ki Rani would have felt proud of.

As Anna rightly said the other day, in a democracy people are the 'king' and those running a democratic government "servants of the people". That would make Anna, Ramdev, you and me the kings, not Diggy Raja or Kapil Sibal or Manmohan Singh.

But the darbaris are hardly expected to understand the grammar of democracy.



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