The Midsummer Folly of Congress

Swami Ramdev questioned me about the possibility of an arrest by the police. He claimed to have factual information. Then, I responded, “No government would dare to commit such an error. You are holding a peaceful fast in front of thousands of your supporters. At least 40 OB vans from TV networks are on the scene to keep an eye on everything. I further assured him that Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh would never permit such a thing.

I thought that after the Emergency period, Congress had learned its lesson. Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh did not indicate throughout the final seven years of the UPA’s reign that they would ever attempt to use force.

But within a few hours, I was shown to be mistaken. In the night, I received a call from the India TV newsroom saying, “Sir, police have swooped on Ramlila Maidan.”

The images of the on-the-rampant cops I watched on television that evening were very unsettling. How could someone do such a crime? In front of the cameras, cops beat up older adults and children and tore women’s clothing. They also launched tear gas shells.

Do not beat the people here; I am prepared to face arrest; I overheard Swami Ramdev asking the cops while perched on the shoulder of one of his supporters. However, police officers are unwilling to listen to the voice of reason when a government dispatches a 5,000-strong police force to disperse a crowd. Police officers receive training to use sticks, tear gas shells, and firearms. The fact that these starving individuals slept after a daylong fast didn’t matter much to the police officers. The cops could have used force if the crowd had been unruly by opening fire. I can only express my gratitude to God that the majority of Swami Ramdev’s adherents were either elderly, female, or young, or they were his chosen “sadhaks” (trainers), who had been taught never to use violence.

Previously, when Swami Ramdev called me throughout the day, he informed me that he had received reliable information that thousands of police officers would attempt to disperse the tents at midnight. The police could kill him in a staged encounter or set the tent on fire; the informant had reportedly warned him.

At the time, I had said to Swami Ramdev, “Such things cannot occur. Nobody can contemplate killing you in their wildest nightmares, even thousands of police officers trying to break into the tents.

I was curious how Ramdev would disprove my assumptions after watching the police go on the offensive from 1 am to 5 am on television. Later, I understood why Swami Ramdev chose to leave the camp in a women’s outfit. He might have reasoned that if his information regarding police entry and police using lathis was accurate, then the covert information about a potential confrontation must also be correct.

To me, Congress is a party with leaders skilled in leading. The midnight crackdown on June 4-5 astonished me since I had always thought that the Congress leaders understood how to run the country. Even now, I’m unable to comprehend why the government would ever do such a thing. The most crucial consideration is what Congress or the administration gained from it.

The Supreme Court delivered a notice requesting an explanation from the government for the harsh police action that occurred at night. Will the government inform the supreme court that it took this action to demonstrate its power and claim the ability to silence anyone? “If we know how to accommodate, we also know how to rein in,” Kapil Sibal had told the reporters that evening.

I’m curious as to what Congress gained from all of this. The yoga master who had been reaching out to Congress is now vowed to destroy it. The same Swami Ramdev has been thrust by the Congress into the RSS camp while keeping his distance from the RSS and shaking hands with Muslim leaders to present a universally appealing image. By using the police to beat up Swami Ramdev’s supporters mercilessly, Congress managed to get Mayawati and Mulayam Singh on the same plane. A prominent figure, such as Brinda Karat, who formerly publicly criticized Swami Ramdev, went on television to denounce the savage police response.

The midnight crackdown has undone this since the Congress and the administration was already fixated on Anna Hazare and considered Swami Ramdev a counterpunch to Hazare.

Ramdev and Anna, who were previously uncomfortable with one another, are now a couple. Anna Hazare is fasting to draw attention to police brutality against Ramdev followers. Both will now fall under the purview of the government.

The BJP, the Congress’s adversary, recovered as the Congress fell behind. The BJP, attempting to turn things around, lacked any significant issues with the administration. Due to a gift of a hot-button problem from Congress, the very same party is suddenly out in force.

Unknowingly, Congress has given the BJP a problem and a leader like Ramdev, who has a large support base of millions of people. Now, in addition to the BJP, the Congress must contend with Ramdev, Anna Hazare’s civil society, Mayawati, and Mulayam Singh.

The harsh, bloody police action’s timing was also crucial. Kapil Sibal confused the night before by displaying a letter suggesting a contract with Ramdev. In the defense, Swami Ramdev explained that the letter only states that his demands will be satisfied and that the fast will end in two days. However, the administration has now put Ramdev on the attack by dispatching a 5,000-strong police force in the middle of the night. Ramdev is now specifically criticizing Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. For the last five years, Ramdev had carefully avoided criticizing these two figures of authority.

On the other side, Digvijay Singh called Ramdev, a “thug,” and his friend Acharya Balkrishna, a thief, urged the authorities to look into Ramdev’s holdings. According to a reputable newspaper, the assets of the trusts and businesses connected to Ramdev will be the subject of an investigation by the CBI and ED. How, then, could Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, convince Swami Ramdev not to continue his fast if he had been a thug?

Why did the prime minister convince a “thug” in a letter that his campaign against corruption was legitimate?

Why did Pranab Mukherjee, the finance minister, and three other senior ministers travel to the airport to meet Ramdev if the assets of Ramdev’s trusts and businesses are to be investigated?

In any democracy, public support serves as the political parties’ oxygen, yet unbridled power hubris can act as a corrosive acid for any party.

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