Congress plays ‘good cop, bad cop’ with Baba Ramdev

Congress spokesperson Digvijay Singh has accused Baba Ramdev of carrying on a fast “sponsored” by the BJP and RSS.

“The foot soldiers are of RSS. The BJP and VHP are supporting it. We all know who is sponsoring this.. Who is trying to propagate (this),” he said, in the most direct attack on the Yogi’s credibility.

Baba Ramdev is not officially a supporter of BJP or does BJP officially endorse the Baba. However, as an advocate of core ‘Hindu’ values, the Baba’s ideology is close to what the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or National Volunteer Brigade — ‘ideological parent’ of BJP) has been pushing for more than half a century.

Like the RSS, the Baba believes that more importance should be given to India’s traditional cultural values and aesthetics in today’s society and policy. Ramdev, however, is not seen as anti-non-Hindu in the same way that RSS and some of its allies such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has been perceived in the past.

This week, the RSS — composed of people advocating a more traditional India — was quick to direct its volunteers to help in the nation-wide agitation. The usually pro-RSS Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), however, took its time in offering its conditional support to the Yogi’s agitation. Most political parties, even ‘Hindu’ ones, are afraid of the Baba’s political ambitions as he has already announced that he will field his own candidates in the next general elections in 2014.

The Yogi’s current agitation, for example, has participation and the support of many Islamic, Buddhist and Jain religious leaders and followers. Baba Ramdev has built up an estimated Rs 1,000 crore empire by teaching India’s traditional medical and wellness practices, collectively knows as Yoga.

The Congress, which is in power, first tried to woo Ramdev away from his agitation, but having failed to do so, has now adopted a dual-strategy of ‘attack and negotiate’. Digvijay Singh, who has a reputation for launching personal attacks on party’s rivals, started attacking the Baba’s character and intentions yesterday, after it became clear that the Yogi intended to push on with his agitation.

The talks with Baba — the most powerful spiritual or religious leader in India with supporters numbered in crores — are going on in parallel to the agitation.

Digvijay Singh also led a campaign to spread doubt and suspicion about the leaders who were agitating for the installation of an anti-corruption ombudsman known as Lokpal. The personal attacks on eminent lawyers like Shanti Bhushan was termed as a “crude and disgusting character assassination” by Padma Vibhushan, Soli Sorabjee — one of India’s most respected jurists.

The Congress’ strategy has been compared to the ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’ role-playing strategy employed by law enforcement officials to confuse and win the trust of criminals and suspects. One cop pretends to be very hot-headed and nasty, while another one controls and protects the suspect from him. The strategy works as it mixes threats with negotiation.

The tactic has already managed to put the Baba on the defensive, with the teacher forced to come out and distance himself from any “political or communal agenda.”

A similar agitation for the Lokpal bill saw its leaders such as Anna Hazare forced to distance themselves from the opposition parties to prevent such an attack by the Congress. The followers of Hazare forcibly prevented Uma Bharti, a BJP leader, from taking the stage to avert the perception that the agitation was “sponsored” by BJP, angering many BJP supporters.

Hazare, however, took Baba’s support on stage as he is not seen as associated with any political party.


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