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