Baba Ramdev”s Support for Reservation: A Political Undertones

Posted on May 18, 2012 in Politics

By Girija S. Semuwal:

The state and nature of our politics is such that religion and caste still get to play a major role when it comes to political mobilization of people. From time to time, politicians who understand its tremendous power, throw the religion and caste card to turn communal sentiments to their political advantage. Baba Ramdev’s comments look to exploit the same tendency within our society and politics.

The card is always open for anybody who has political aspirations to go ahead and use it. And the situation never changes. We are a secular nation, but only on paper.

It does not matter what the purpose is — corruption, black money or some other relevant cause – it’s completely unjustified to rally for support by instigating communal sentiments. Baba Ramdev, even though it’s his rightful opinion, has shown little discretion and sense of responsibility expected from public figures in commenting freely and loosely on a sensitive issue like reservation. By doing this, he’s left his opinion to be construed in any which way it can be.

An analysis of his comments also finds them to be paradoxical, which ought to raise eyebrows further. In his address at the All India United Muslim Morcha he said that 3,000 Muslims work at his Patanjali Yogpeeth ashram and that “there is no Hindu-Muslim differentiation there”. But he worded a division himself when he remarked that “If your maulanas cannot raise your voice, a baba will do it for you”. This is a loaded statement with communal meanings. Instead of neutralizing previous criticisms, he is bound to receive fresh criticism for these statements.

Another revelation, in my critical view, is embedded in the media presentation of Baba Ramdev’s comments. The media scoop on his comments is completely devoted to pronouncing existing religious divides – A saffron-clad ‘yoga guru’ announces that he is in support of reservation for Muslim and Christian Dalits.

A media-made celebrity with purportedly political ambitions makes a comment to supposedly win the favor of the weakest sections among religious minorities. This is such big news. But the political significance of this event is read in a manner that it has nothing to do with the event in particular. It is read from a communal angle and presented as such.
The focus is totally on how the Hindutva inclined Baba is trying to woo Muslim and Christian Dalits. This is a highly skewed interpretation to say the very least, but it’s also in nexus with the fundamentals of our nation’s politics. It reveals a communal bent-of-mind at large which is quick to detect anything pertaining to religious bias and decry it as communalism. It triggers controversy and draws immediate responses in the same communal lingo by players whose intentions are not any different from those who seek political power.

What shape the issue will take would depend on whether or not Baba Ramdev continues to pursue it within his overall agenda. For now, it suffices to say that he has speeded up his political treadmill. A word of caution – if he sticks to his reputation of not being self-aware then it may hurt him badly in the eventuality.