BJP Ropes in Ramdev

Non- Congress lead­ers make com­mon cause with the yoga guru, aim for his sup­port base

India Today - - INSIDE - By Devesh Ku­mar

NDA lead­ers make com­mon cause with the yoga guru, aim for his sup­port base.

Baba Ramdev at his weak­est can be an NDA as­set. That was the mes­sage NDA sent out as it despatched BJP Pres­i­dent Nitin Gad­kari and his Janata DalUnited ( JD- U) coun­ter­part Sharad Ya­dav to share the plat­form with him at the Ramlila grounds on Au­gust 13. The cam­paign launched by Ramdev, who be­gan a sym­bolic fast against black money and ram­pant cor­rup­tion on Au­gust 9, floun­dered, with the UPA Gov­ern­ment re­main­ing un­moved and the crowds dwin­dling. It was only af­ter the NDA lead­ers ap­peared at the venue that crowds resur­faced. BJP wants Ramdev’s votes with­out his in­ter­ven­tion in their af­fairs. A weak­ened yoga guru, a se­nior BJP leader said, would not be in a po­si­tion to dic­tate terms to them.

Other NDA al­lies are equally keen to tap into Ramdev’s sup­port. The Akali Dal ex­tended its back­ing by send­ing its Delhi unit chief Man­jit Singh to share the plat­form with the other NDA big­wigs. Nama Nagesh­wara Rao, Tel­ugu De­sam Party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, came to the venue around the same time. Hours later, Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party leader and for­mer Ut­tar Pradesh min­is­ter Bhag­wati Prasad showed up. On Au­gust 12, Odisha Chief Min­is­ter Naveen Pat­naik had despatched Ra­jya Sabha MP Rabi Narayan Mo­ha­p­a­tra to the Ramlila grounds. The yoga preacher also claims the sup­port of Shiv Sena, Na­tion­al­ist Congress Party and Sa­ma­jwadi Party ( SP). “Our party is against black money. We’ll sup­port who­ever talks about bring­ing back black money,” SP chief Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav de­clared out­side the Par­lia­ment soon af­ter Lok Sabha had been ad­journed over the is­sue on Au­gust 13.

Was BJP wise in lend­ing its mus­cle to Ramdev? The party thinks so. “Much be­fore Ramdev be­gan his cam­paign against black money, L. K. Ad­vani had con­verted it into one of the cen­tral themes of NDA’s elec­toral plank in the run- up to the 2009 Lok Sabha polls,” says a se­nior leader. The move to sup­port him may not win the party im­me­di­ate votes, but it would help in the long run by lend­ing im­pe­tus to the an­tiCongress mood swirling across In­dia for its in­abil­ity to con­trol cor­rup­tion. “It will add to the at­mo­spher­ics,” the BJP leader says. “As an is­sue, cor­rup­tion and black money are ide­o­log­i­cally neu­tral. It will help BJP in reach­ing out to other op­po­si­tion par­ties,” he adds.

Sharad Ya­dav also says that NDA was al­ready at the fore­front of the cam­paign against cor­rup­tion and

black money. “There is no ques­tion of al­low­ing oth­ers to ap­pro­pri­ate the cause,” he told IN­DIA TO­DAY. “Ramdev had been call­ing us to share the dais with him. Gad­kari dis­cussed the is­sue with me, and we agreed,” he added. More than the JD( U) pres­i­dent, it was Bi­har Chief Min­is­ter Ni­tish Ku­mar who was en­thu­si­as­tic about ex­tend­ing sup­port to the yoga guru. “Ramdev en­joys a tremen­dous fol­low­ing in the Hindi heart­land. He also hap­pens to be a Ya­dav,” ex­plains a party MP.

The Congress, ex­pect­edly, in­sists the Op­po­si­tion- bol­stered stir would not make any dif­fer­ence at the hus­tings. “One thing the peo­ple of this coun­try do not lack is ro­bust com­mon sense,” ob­served party spokesman Manish Te­wari, “They can see through the cha­rade and chi­canery very eas­ily.” He was con­fi­dent that the

“Our party is against black money. We will sup­port who­ever talks about bring­ing back black money.”

MU­LAYAM SINGH YA­DAV,

Sa­ma­jwadi Party chief

Congress would be able to thwart the chal­lenge posed by the Ramdev- BJP duo. “Po­lit­i­cal bat­tles are best fought frontally and proxy fights are not worth fight­ing,’’ Te­wari added.

Not ev­ery­one thinks so. “The de­ci­sion by a num­ber of po­lit­i­cal par­ties to rally be­hind the yoga guru is go­ing to be a win- win sit­u­a­tion for both,” says Anand Ku­mar, pro­fes­sor of so­ci­ol­ogy at Jawa­har­lal Nehru Univer­sity. “It will iso­late the Congress fur­ther in the next 14 to 18 months. In fact, the twin cam­paigns ( of Ramdev and Anna Hazare) have made an out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion by politi­cis­ing the so­cial dis­sat­is­fac­tion about grow­ing cor­rup­tion and forc­ing anti- so­cial el­e­ments to move to the back­ground in po­lit­i­cal af­fairs,’’ Ku­mar added.

RAMDEV( CEN­TRE) WITH GAD­KARI ( LEFT) AND SHARAD YADAVAT RAMLILA GROUNDS

ON AUGUST13

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