May 15, 2021
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Kalyug's Warriors

Kalyug's Warriors

Sagarika Ghose in the Hindustan Times:

The UPA has dispatched Ramdev to his ashram. The police action at the Ramlila Maidan was insupportable and the BJP has now gained a cause celebre. The RSS and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) have fully supported Ramdev from the start. On Twitter, anyone critical of Ramdev is being dubbed a ‘Congress
agent’ by Sangh parivar activists.

The Ramdev phenomenon and, to some extent, the Anna Hazare campaign are part of India’s right-wing nationalist revolution. It is right-wing because it is based on national pride and individual entitlement. It is a movement of the middle and lower middle class buoyed up by 9% growth that now seeks a responsive, overtly honest government and a hard State.

This revolution is closely linked to a Hindu consolidation spreading through society. Perhaps as a backlash to globalisation, urban religiosity and Bharatiya sanskriti have become fashionable; faith in gurus is growing and it cuts across classes. Ramdev jumps from colas to homosexuality to black money in his choice of enemies, yet his devotees’ faith remains constant.

Notwithstanding the BJP’s crushing electoral defeats, the Hindu nationalist consolidation is gathering tremendous cultural momentum, much of which feeds into the anti-corruption campaigns. The Ram janmabhoomi movement is back, in a new sophisticated avatar.

Read on at the Hindustan Times

Incidentally, journalists known to be close to the BJP are far more circumspect about the impact of Ramdev.

Swapan Dasgupta in the Times of India puts his finger on what should certainly be worrying the BJP:

The BJP believes it too will be the principal gainer from the Congress's inability to respond to the 2009 mandate. That may be. Yet, it should reflect over why civil society movements are acquiring momentum in precisely those regions where BJP is the natural alternative to the Congress. Even if the Facebook crowd is aesthetically inclined towards the 'non-party' activism of the NGOs and the likes of Anna Hazare, why is the non-cosmopolitan middle class acquiescing to the opposition mantle being passed on to a baba rather than to a political party espousing the same values?

For India's politicians, the need to subsume banality and dubious history in reflection was never more pressing. The Ramdev crisis has burnt the Congress but it has also singed the opposition.

And Ashok Malik argues that Ramdev is too independent and autonomous to be satisfied being a prop for the Sangh Parivar – as the RSS network is called – or indeed any party:

Till a week ago he seemed happy to do a deal with the Congress on his terms. Today, he is happy to enter into a mutually-beneficial and expedient relationship with non-Congress parties, the BJP the biggest among them....

Ramdev is a Yadav from Haryana, an OBC. He can attribute his fame not to some ancient monastery but to television. He is one of a generation of astonishingly successful televangelists.

These televangelists don’t restrict themselves to caste or sectional mobilisation; they don’t carve out geographical territories. Instead, they seek to construct pan-Indian constituencies, particularly among television-watching audiences in urban India, largely in small towns but in big cities as well.

Today, a Ramdev has greater name, brand and face recall than the RSS, the VHP and almost all of the worthies who signed up for the dharma sansad 20-25 years ago. Unlike them, he is not going to be reined in by group discipline. That’s what makes him – and others like him – so fascinating and so unpredictable.

The question is: can they influence voting decisions as well?

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