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Millionaire sage wages war on graft

The last fortnight saw the surging anti-corruption movement in India suffer an affront with Baba Ramdev’s supporters being lathi charged (caned) in Delhi.

This prompted Ramdev to declare that he would form an army of 11,000 soldiers. Is he a guiding light to the movement or will he potentially derail this rare chance for Indians to wipe the windows to the gears of Government clean?

Ramdev’s wide influence in India cannot be understated. He has for many years been a televised Yogi with an audience of millions of people.

I cannot tell you how surreal it was to sit and listen to a lecture on Ramdev’s signature explosive breathing. This happened a few years ago in Arunachal Pradesh, the remotest Indian State.

The late tribal Minister was convinced this would cure his hypertension.

Ramdev’s drug company also avers that his herbal remedies cure HIV and cancer. This creative entrepreneurship has spawned an empire worth many millions. This is a break from the Swami tradition of austerity.

Gandhiji, on being asked why he travelled third class in trains, replied, “Because there is no fourth class.”

If Ramdev was asked why he was travelling in first class of an airline, he would reply, “Because I couldn’t charter the whole blessed aircraft,” which is exactly what he does.

Awe-inspiring

But India has changed. This hedonistic behaviour inspires awe, not disdain. His eccentricities are swallowed completely by millions of followers.

That includes his five-point plan: 100% voting; 100% Nationalistic thought; 100% boycott of foreign companies; 100% unification of the country; 100% yoga- oriented nation.

He has tempered these swadeshi instincts with a reported purchase of a Scottish Island for several million British Pounds.

But can we be too precious about the individuals who are leading the people to what we pray is a historical change? Who gives a toss if the diseased limb of corruption is severed by a scalpel or a garden spade?

Yes, Ramdev is the polar opposite of Hazare.

Hazare is the cleaner than clean Gandhian. Not the MLA Gandhian who habitually sports a gold Mount Blanc pen in his kardi kurta pocket but the real deal.

Hazare would rather starve to death than charter an aircraft.

This has gained a deep respect but not a universal respect. No contemporary politician has understood this modern voter burnout to Gandhian austerity like Mayawati, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.

She understands down to her chopals that Gandhism is not moving off the shelves like it used to. She sells bling. She shamelessly displays her massive personal wealth like a West Coast rapper and commissions pharaoh like memorials to her living self.

The dalits love it. She is one of them and they want to be like her. They no longer respect Gandhian ideals because the lifestyle they aspire to rid themselves of is in fact Gandhian and is practiced out of simply having no choice.

Ramdev is a marketable hybrid of these worlds, and a jet-setting Gandhian.

He has my reluctant vote because I think he can learn to not talk of armed revolution when having fasted for three days. He has the vote too of 85 year-old K L Gupta who made his way from Indore to Rajghat, alone and in 40-degree weather. Even with his catheter bag, he slept outside on Delhi’s pavements so he could pray with Hazare and Ramdev for his beloved India.

Roy Lange is a New Zealander living and working in Melbourne. He lived in India for ten years pursuing higher education and a career.



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