Why Baba is better than Anna
An article that I wrote on Anna Hazare evoked extreme reactions. One section, a minority, read it as an objective piece that unraveled the activist, about whom only a one-dimensional narrative has been available. A majority of the readers accused me of being biased against Anna, who they considered as the only hope for a country that is being ruined by the ‘political class,’ a loose term used mostly in a pejorative sense by our middle class. If you are reading this, it is very likely that you are one of Anna’s supporters.
Another piece I wrote on Baba Ramdev had similar reactions, but the sense one could make is that Anna is more popular among those who are tuned into the anti-corruption campaigns. There is a general discomfort among the “educated and intelligent sections of the civil society” (Kiran Bedi’s description in an unrelated context) that Baba Ramdev is not good company. Anna is confused – he wavers between supporting and criticizing the Baba.
Speaking to several people in different fields, I have formulated a comparison between Anna and Baba.
Both Anna and Baba display shocking ignorance of the working of a representative democracy. Both want death penalty for the corrupt, a savage demand, given the fact that capital punishment is a highly controversial debate world over. Both lack proper formal education. Both are ambitious, trying to use the name and success they earned in their respective areas of activity to claim a national profile, far beyond their intellect and capabilities.
Anna could command more credibility perhaps because all of us like our leaders to be old, pious and poor. Baba is young, rich, stylish in his own way and flamboyant – the combination that suggests an instant scam. Things that we secretly aspire for, but loathe in others, especially in our leaders.
But I like the Baba more than Anna. Anna has achieved something extraordinary in his village. But he has failed or did not bother to scale it up to other places. He drifted from one issue to other and finally landed up in the alien territory of lawmaking. He had the backing of international agencies and media.
The Baba is self-made man who became an international figure in just 15 years flat after he left his village. Puritans deride his yoga, but he is a genius as far as discovering the market potential of the ancient practice is concerned. But for his ill-informed adventure into politics, Baba Ramdev is one of the biggest successes of free market India.