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Anna-Baba may not click

Social reformer Anna Hazare and the Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev have come together to fight against corruption and have shown their combined strength on 4 June in the capital. In the scorching June sun supporters of these two ventured to go to Jantar Mantar to attend their joint function when there was a day long fast. Ramdev wants to continue the agitation until 8 August, starting from the gram sabhas right up t0 the Lok Sabha, He proposes to get six lakhs villages to pass the resolution to declare black money as national asset and hand it over to the Prime Minister. He would meet all party leaders including Sonia Gandhi over the issue.

What a difference between last year’s Anna Hazare-Ramdev agitations and this year’s comparatively low profile repeat! Then the government went on a knee-jerk reaction. While Ramdev got a great reception when four cabinet ministers went to the airport to receive him, Anna kept the Parliament on tenterhooks and extracted his pound of flesh on the Lokpal bill during the last monsoon session.  Then the atmosphere was built up with frenzy and there was a mood in the country against corruption with 2G, CWG scams hogging the headlines. Lakhs of supporters assembled not only in Delhi but also in other states. Several youngsters began to think Anna as the new age Gandhi but soon his movement faded when the team was unable to sustain it.  Similarly, Ramdev lost out the minute he jumped from the dais wearing women’s clothes and went in to hiding. Over the past few months both Anna and Ramdev have lost their sheen in view of various allegations against their teams. The electronic media, which went berserk last year, has mellowed down now and the two leaders are not getting the same exposure much to their dismay. Both are trying their best to recover and what better way than to combine forces?

Look at their background. Ramdev is a yoga guru who built a multi-crore empire. The middle class was besotted with his way of teaching yoga. There is no doubt he deserves praise for popularising yoga in the country. However, he was not able to en cash it politically as people do not look at him that way. The middle class has some fascination for the saffron clad gurus. To add to that Ramdev has cleverly taken up steps to end his political untouchability by wooing Muslims and to show that his influence goes beyond Hindus. For this purpose he has supported Muslim reservation. He has also not given up his pet theme of bringing black money back from abroad.

As far as Anna is concerned his graph has been on the decline after last year’s huge success. His successive meetings in Mumbai and elsewhere did not take off. Most of his team members are facing some corruption allegations themselves. There is also fighting and indiscipline within the team. During the last one year, the campaign has lost focus also because the Anna team has become political. The biggest drawback for Anna is that he has not come up with any proper programme to root out corruption except one single bill on Lokpal. How does he expect that Lokpal will root out corruption in the whole country where the system is rotten?

Insiders say that two could not have come together without the backroom maneuverings of the RSS. BJP chief Nitin Gadkari let the cat out of the bag by openly promising full support to Ramdev when he called on him this week. Even for bringing the crowds the RSS and the BJP helped the two leaders last year. Gadkari, who needs support from outside as he is facing rough weather within the party has gone out of his way in assuring support to the yoga guru as the BJP wants to keep the corruption issue alive until the 2014 elections.

The question arises whether these two egoistic leaders with their own following could work together? While there was much camaraderie between the two groups, the lines separating their camps are distinct with followers supporting their respective leaders. The differences came to the surface on the Jantar Mantar fast when the yoga guru criticised Team Anna member for bringing the name of Prime Minister in the corrupt list.

Secondly, Anna made three points in his speech at the meeting. The first was that he warned the UPA government of a jail bharo agitation if FIRs were not filed on the corrupt ministers by August. The second was the intention to integrate the Ramdev and Anna movements. The third was his warnings to the government to bring Lokpal bill before 2014. Will Ramdev work towards this?

Thirdly, how would the two leaders get the support of the public when it is already waning? This could happen only when the two movements merge and the two leaders work in unison to achieve their goals.

Fourthly, among the political parties, riding piggyback on these two leaders, BJP is planning to launch a movement against price rise, inflation and corruption. Anna has carefully avoided inviting the political leaders for his fast this time.  In any case they are already fighting corruption and price rise both inside and outside Parliament. Anna-Baba movements should also include issues like price rise.

Fifthly, two years is a long time in politics. One has to see whether the two movements will survive that long. Naturally the government would go all out to finish the movements. The Congress President Sonia Gandhi has hit out at the team Anna for targeting Prime Minister in her Congress Working committee meeting this week. She saw a conspiracy against the government and the opposition parties and some anti Congress elements were working against the Prime Minister, and the UPA government. It will be interesting to watch whether the Anna-Baba team, the two good organisers could deliver.
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