New Delhi, June 10: UPA Government ministers and Congress party spokesmen have been coming up with a variety of justifications for the brutal midnight assault on yoga guru Baba Ramdev and his peaceful supporters in Ramlila Maidan in Delhi last Saturday. But an outraged public which saw it all play out on television is having none of it.
This is evident from an opinion poll conducted by LensOnNews among a cross sectional sample of 850 respondents across four major cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad – from June 7 to 9. Incidentally, the Congress and allies are the ruling party in the state in all the four cities where the poll was conducted. As many as 78% of the respondents felt that the police action against the Baba was unwarranted, against only 17% who felt there may be some justification. The poll findings carry a margin of error of 5 per cent.
When asked about the opinion of many that the government action was reminiscent of the 1975 Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi when people’s right of peaceful assembly and protest was taken away, 36% of the respondents said that this is a fair comparison, against 30% who disagreed.
Anna Hazare, who went on a day-long fast in Raj Ghat to protest the police action against Ramdev and his supporters, has in fact condemned it in even harsher terms. He called it “Jallianwalabagh, but without the shooting”, and compared the UPA government to the British Raj.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was silent for many days, finally stated that the action was unfortunate but was unavoidable. And the Congress party has been putting out contradictory statements about whether the action had been taken with the knowledge and approval of Sonia Gandhi or not. However, 61% of the respondents to the poll held PM Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi squarely responsible for the police action, while 23% absolved them of direct responsibility.
The Congress party and government agencies have been spreading slander and disinformation, and seeking to intimidate Baba Ramdev and his associates, as also the civil society activists Anna Hazare, Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan. Digvijaya Singh, senior leader and spokesman of Congress has called the Baba a ‘thug’ and a fraud. Asked whether they agree with this characterization of the Baba, an overwhelming majority (71%) of the respondents said No; Ramdev after all is a famed yoga guru and televangelist with millions of followers.
Not only the Congress spokesmen, but also many leftist commentators, have maintained that as a yoga teacher and religious head Ramdev is ill-qualified to take up complicated issues like black money and corruption, and he should stay out of politics. They have even said Anna Hazare, Shanti Bushan and their group too should stay out of these matters and leave it all to the “elected representatives of the people”; else their action would undermine democracy. It is interesting that the public does not agree. Fully 90% of the respondents to our poll have welcomed Baba Ramdev’s initiative in taking up the important issues of black money and corruption that have attained unusual salience because of the humongous scams like 2G, CWG etc under the UPA dispensation, and the Government’s clear disinclination to take any meaningful steps to recover the black money stashed in Swiss banks and tax havens abroad.
An interesting aspect of the poll findings is that support for Baba Ramdev and resentment against Government’s action against him is greatest in Delhi and Mumbai, and somewhat less in Kolkata and Hyderabad.
With Baba Ramdev continuing with his fast in Hardwar, and Anna Hazare announcing an August 15 deadline for the enactment of the Lokpal Bill, and public opinion across the nation gathering behind these leaders, it is clear that the issues raised by them are not going to fade away. If Government remains unresponsive, we may truly find ourselves in the midst of what Anna has called, a “second freedom struggle”.
K. Balakrishnan is Editor, LensOnNews and was formerly Research Editor, The Times of India.