Like a profligate, Baba Ramdev blew it away. Last Sunday, he was handed a winning situation on a platter: the government ordered a police raid on the Ramlila grounds to evict him and hundreds of followers.
The result was unthinkable: Baba won the support of not just his believers but also his detractors. The public outcry had UPA running for cover.
Eight days later, it is Ramdev who wishes he could hide. Right now, he is recovering in Dehradun’s Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences. Doctors say he is stable, though speaking with difficulty. No longer in the intensive care unit, he has been shifted to a VIP room to recuperate. But Ramdev’s campaign continues to be in deep trouble.
Sages say what comes easy goes faster. The wave of support came too easy for Ramdev. He did little to earn it. The public sentiment was more anti-government than pro-Ramdev.
Perhaps this is why he couldn’t handle it. The campaign suddenly became bigger than Ramdev or his aides had conceived. Earlier last week, many expected him to put final touches to a victory. Instead they found him floundering: unable to handle the media or garner support on his home turf.
A combination of both factors derailed Ramdev’s plans. The jury is out on his financial probity, his trusts and his companies. But the very fact that such questions were raised seemed to disqualify him as a leader of a campaign against corruption. ET on Sunday analyses how Ramdev unravelled his own game with blow by blow accounts from his ashram Patanjali Yogpeeth, Haridwar.
Naive Comments to the Media
It began to go downhill on Wednesday. During one of his customary public appearances at the yogyashala, an open-air auditorium, Ramdev claimed he would launch an 11,000-strong force for self-defence. It was unclear if he meant an ‘armed’ force.
But Ramdev did claim constitutional backing for the right to self-defence: “We all have this right. Don’t people across the country learn judo and karate? This is perfectly legal. We will raise a force of young people like that.” He added: “We will not assault any one. But neither will we be assaulted.”
And then came a statement which exemplified his naivete: “I know my media friends won’t twist my words. I have full confidence in them.” Whether twisted or not, the channels reported those words widely.
Pushed to be Defensive
By Thursday, events turned farcical. Everyone had been told that Baba and Acharya Balkrishna would address the media, till then both had been relatively inaccessible. At about 6.15 pm, they appeared together.
In contrast to Ramdev, who is more comfortable talking to large supporters, Balkrishna seemed more media savvy. Dressed in white (the garb of a brahmachari), he constantly viewed news channels to be updated on developments at the Centre. Balkrishna wanted to be ready with the next move even while talking on the mobile phone. Economic Times