This Article is From Aug 15, 2012

Baba Ramdev: Movement here to stay for next 50 years

Baba Ramdev: Movement here to stay for next 50 years
New Delhi: He may have announced a three-day fast as part of his campaign against black money, but yoga guru Baba Ramdev says the movement is here to stay at least for the next 50 years.

On Day 2 of his fast, the yoga guru said that after the three-day fast it will be the people of this country and not he who will decide on the next step that will be taken. Nearly 8,000 people have gathered at the protest venue this morning.

Addressing the crowd, Baba Ramdev emphasised that black money should be brought back to the country. "If the 20,000 lakh crore is brought back to the country a lot will be taken care of," the yoga guru said. The yoga guru also invited the volunteers to come to his ashram in Haridwar for training so that they can fast for a longer duration.

On the first day of his protest camp, 20,000 people gathered to support Baba Ramdev, establishing the yoga guru's star power. Many of the people in the audience travelled thousands of miles by bus or train. Indian flags were waved by young children.

His impressive turnout comes a week after a hunger strike by activist Anna Hazare and his aides saw a lymphatic response. They ended their fast by announcing that Anna would not contest elections, but that his aides would launch a political party.

Ramlila Maidan was also the epicentre of Baba Ramdev's movement last year. That sit-in ended with a midnight police swoop that turned violent; the Supreme Court indicted both the police and Baba Ramdev for acting irresponsibly and putting the large crowd at risk. This time around, the police say, it is prepared to handle 30,000 people.

Though his mission is to pressure the government to recover crores of black money or untaxed income hidden by Indians in foreign bank accounts, Baba Ramdev retailed the Lokpal Bill, the anti-graft legislation that has been the raison d'etre of 75-year-old Anna Hazare's movement for the last 18 months. "We want a strong Lokpal Bill," he said yesterday, addressing an attentive crowd.  The bill, which creates a national ombudsman agency called the Lokpal, has not been approved yet by Parliament.

Baba Ramdev suggested that the bill be made a law immediately; minor changes to address the concerns of civil society activists or political parties could be made through amendments later. However, the government should not interpret that as a sign to push through "a sarkari (government) Lokpal Bill," he warned, from a 20-foot high platform constructed at the end of a vast tent.

"A sarkari bill will be like a sarkari CBI," he said, referencing the common criticism that the country's top investigating agency is used to serve the party in power by targeting its opponents and protecting its friends.

Differentiating himself from Anna's aides, who have attacked ministers from the ruling Congress, Baba Ramdev said that he has no political agenda and will not target any political party. He is, however, closely backed by the BJP - recently, party president Nitin Gadkari greeted him publicly by touching his feet, a deferential gesture of respect that drew much criticism.

Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare are championing anti-corruption measures at a time when scandals involving voluptuous graft have tumbled out into the open.  Many are being investigated in courts, conveying the impression of an unaccountable political class and governance bereft of any sort of probity. But the reason that Anna and Baba Ramdev were able to strike a chord with middle class India is on account of a venal system that is navigated in everyday life.

(With Agency Inputs)