A spirited Baba Ramdev has been the media's darling for the past few days. A fast, which is followed by a call for the mahakranti or grand revolution, created a wave of sensationalism among the people present at the spot and those watching the man clad in saffron on TV, wondering he was about to storm into the hub of the corrupt politicians and expose them.
Perhaps the fact that another August 15 was approaching made this new clan of liberators of the country all the more enthusiastic. But after the sudden halting of the Anna movement, even if temporarily, what major effect the Ramdev phenomenon is set to achieve?
India suddenly, after a while, found itself dating with an open protest culture. This is a positive aspect. The Anna movement gave an extra edge to the emerging anti-corruption movement and the old man's fasting in August last year earned a significant success. But this August, the story turned sorry for the Anna brigade and now Ramdev, who has also been trying out his own brand of agitation and met with a ridiculous ending last year following a police crackdown, seems to have taken up the baton of the 'new Indian revolution'.
But there are some issues. Anna Hazare's intention was undoubtedly a noble one but it was unfortunate that he could not maintain the momentum after a year. One suspects that there is a bigger problem. India is turning an increasingly infertile land for these agitations to effect a serious change on the ground and there is no point in living just another day as far as these open protests are concerned, if the 'frustrated' countrymen are seriously hoping to nail corrupt politicians and all those are responsible for the nation's continuing woes.
Little hope for the mahakranti
But why India is an infertile land for a mahakranti? There are some basic reasons for it.
First, most of the Indians are not bothered and even among those who are bothered, many don't have an iota of idea about what is Jan Lokpal all about. It is the media blitzkrieg more than anything else that has mobilised the people against corruption. Anna's initiative was good but the problem was that it was too simplistic. Media and the popular support that it created found it user-friendly but eventually, the stance lacked the realistic capacity of outdoing the targetted villains.
Secondly, the current Indian middle-class, which is fed by the media and keeps the Tricolour flying high as a symbol of crusade against corruption, basically leads a neo-liberal way of lifestyle. The same neo-liberal economy, which has been taking shape in the country since the last few decades, serves as a source for them to maintain a decent life and also allows enough scope for corrupt practices. These are the two sides of the same coin.
The protest against corruption will only be successful when the unchecked neo-liberal economy is brought under some regulation. But for the middle-class, which must rise to the occasion to make any protest worthwhile, the actual reasons for corruption and how to go about it are beyond an easy comprehension.
Sending corrupt leaders to jail or bringing back the black money in India will, by no means, bring an end to corruption if the system continues to be unchecked. Baba Ramdev, who is shouting out his heart demanding bringing back the kala dhan (black money) from abroad, will soon find that they are stolen again if the root causes of corruption is not understood. People like Anna and Baba could do a great job by plugging this hole, but are they themselves equipped to deal with institutionalised corruption?
Thirdly, as noted scholar-activist Dr Anand Teltumbde said, people like Anna Hazare have serious class limitations. He said as long as these crusaders talk in tune with the system, the state wouldn't bother to feel any headache. Rightly said. The Indian common man has too many issues in his life to concentrate fully against the state and that too for long. They will perceive Anna and Baba as a potent medium to vent their anger but when the medium will fail to live up to their expectations, they will simply disappear. The problem with Anna and Baba is that they are a medium who are too dependent on another medium, the news media, for their survival. But media, too, have their own corporate interests to look after then to fight a problem which has been ingrained in the system.
Fourthly, political organisation is still the only way forward in India to meet any decisive end. Earlier in the history of independent India, major agitations mainly started in political parties. Later, individuals like Jayaprakash Narayan pioneered a new brand of agitation but then again, we can not say it was successful.
Lack of ideology and organisation failed to channelise the spontaneous public energy towards any decisive outcome. The Annas and Babas, too, have similar drawbacks. The problem is, all major political parties in India have lost their credibility to such an extent that any effort by these outfits to associate themselves with the current agitation will alienate the masses.
Finally, the people will be soon left confused for the anti-corruption crusade going on at the moment is basically anti-Congress in nature. Congress only does not mean corruption. No political party is above suspicion. What will happen if the Opposition, which is backed Ramdev with so much enthusiasm on August 13, comes to power at the Centre within two years? Will the Ramdevs suddenly turn a darling for Sonia Gandhi? Such a consequence will leave the objectivity of the movement utterly discredited.