Spiritual twist to politics
Madhusudhan: Spiritual Twist to Politics, An enlightened thought that salvation to the sleaze-ridden political system was possible through his ambidextrous practice of yoga and politics had made the guru to jump onto the Anna’s bandwagon.
Baba Ramdev dabbles in politics with the same penchant as he preaches yoga. Mostly confined to TV appearances and yoga camps, Baba was bitten by political bug when Anna Hazare stormed the political scene in New Delhi with his anti-corruption agenda. An enlightened thought that salvation to the sleaze-ridden political system was possible through his ambidextrous practice of yoga and politics had made the guru to jump onto the Anna’s bandwagon.
Ramdev’s entry and picking up the threads where his mentor had left, around this time last year, were as dramatic as some of his asanas he performs on stage and on screen to impress his large fan following and disciples. His 72-hour hunger strike at Ramlila Grounds in Delhi for a strong Lokpal Bill and bringing back black money stashed abroad was a hit judging by the crowds. His inimitable style of speaking could be his secret mantra to hold the reins. But he ended the fast without realising any tangible result. However, he had managed to focus people’s attention on him the way he did in June 2012 with his Houdini act at the peak of Anna’s movement. No doubt, Ramdev’s appearance and disappearance when the police sought him was a comic interlude in Anna’s campaign.
But it was not a comedy of errors when the flamboyant guru opened his mouth in Lucknow on April 25 to lambast Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi. In a remark that drew flak from all around and was seen as putting his foot in his mouth, the yoga guru had said, “Had he (Rahul) married a Dalit girl, who knows, he might have become the PM. Sonia says first become the PM and then bring a foreigner as bride. He goes to Dalit houses to have picnics and honeymoon."
Baba, a supporter of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, is not particularly known for his English language skills or the nuances of words that could give a different meaning when transliterated. To say he landed in trouble is an understatement. With cases booked against the guru under different sections of Indian Penal Code for insulting Dalits, he denied usage of the word 'honeymoon' in the context of Dalit girls and the meaning of the word as is universally understood. One of his aides tried to defend Baba saying it was "figurative use."
Whatever it means, the explanation has not cut much ice. On the instructions of the Election Commission several states have banned his yoga camps until the elections were over taking cognizance of allegations that Baba had been using the camps for political campaign. He has also been booked under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for "insulting" the Dalit community through his controversial "honeymoon" remark against Rahul Gandhi.
Ramdev insists that Congress has distorted his comment to cash in on Dalit votes. But he has no answer to why, as a spiritual leader and Patanjali Yoga teacher, he wants to add caste fuel to the political fire. Seers, saints, god men, and the like who used to stay away from politics and other mundane things are taking extraordinary interest in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Ramdev is not alone in his political mission to see Modi become the prime minister; others like Sri Sri Sri Ravishankar want people to vote for a person who could provide a clean and corruption-free government.
Known all over the world for his Art of Living with a fan following that runs into millions, the spiritual guru had given the impression to watchers of a TV interview that there was nothing wrong in guiding people. After all, elevation of self is the primary goal of spirituality and the first step begins with embracing ‘good’ and discarding ‘bad.’ When good and bad are subjective and when issues related to them can be widely and wildly interpreted, giving a spiritual twist to political debate, marked more by personal insinuations than the issues that concern the people is like preparing a cocktail with unpalatable contents. It can be dangerous, even explosive, given the way the campaign, in its last phases, is being done. It is like a tug of war where the opponents use maximum pressure and strength to pull the rope to snatch victory from the hands of other side.
Ramdev was grossly mistaken if he thought that his asinine remark would fire up anti-Rahul rhetoric; but the least he would have imagined was the fierce reaction from all quarters and alienation of an important segment of society, the Dalits. At this juncture, BJP could hardly afford to lose the Dalit vote over a silly comment made by a yoga guru.
Every major party has motormouths but BJP seems to have more than a fair share of them and this is the first time that so many oddballs and loose cannons are out in the open when they sensed that the saffron party is likely to emerge as the single largest party with a chance to form the next government.
Again, it is wrong to think that even if a BJP-led coalition comes to power, the spiritual brigade will have a free rein just because a Hindu nationalist is at the helm. No democratic nation can run on ideas propounded by gurus many of whom are self-centric and egoistic.
It is time they realised that they have a place earmarked in society and fulfill their obligations towards it instead of plunging into a field of activity that is directly opposite to what they are supposed to do. As long as they keep themselves above the ordinary, they command respect. Once they leave the pedestal for political loaves, they lose both respect and importance. Then there is no difference between saint and sinner. They may be in the same league but politically incorrect.