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Ramdev’s fast shows Anna’s methods are right

June 30, 2011

Many opponents of Anna’s method cite Ramdev’s fast as evidence of the risk that Anna’s fast, if successful, can set a dangerous precedent.

On the contrary, Ramdev’s fast is evidence that while hunger strikers can make bad demands, those demands will fail unless the govt. abdicates its responsibility. Let me explain.

Ramdev’s fast had everything going for it:

  • He has probably the largest following among Indian masses, even blind following (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and a couple of bollywood figures might be only exceptions)
  • Ramdev is media-savvy, sharp and has deep pockets
  • He did not demand any specific benefit/harm for himself or any particular group
  • None of his demands were outright harmful for the nation (though some seemed impractical and some were arguably bad)
  • His demands targeted corruption, black money and even land acquisition, arguably 3 of the most heated topics in current public discourse
  • Due to Anna’s recent success as well as govt’s other failures, media and public  including ramdev were aggressive / confident and the govt., when it finally responded in May, was on the back foot
  • The govt helped him by responding late, by being opaque about the discussions / agreements with him, by failing to explain to the people why his demands were wrong / impractical and by using force when he was apparently exposed / had lost momentum

Yet, not only did Ramdev’s demands fail, his image took enough beating to dissuade any potential frivolous fasters. Why?

Ramdev’s fast failed due to 2 main reasons:

  • Demands – Could not fully convince the general public including many of his ‘ignorant’ supporters that his demands were practical and hugely positive for the nation.
  • Suspect personal ambitions and intentions – His demands kept changing, were not transparent, he seemed to take decisions unilaterally, his core team was not subject to enough public scrutiny, he suspiciously flip-flopped on the question of PM / judiciary under Lokpal, his conversations and understanding with govt. were also opaque, he failed to keep enough distance from people like Saadhvi Ritambara, etc.

(There were other non-core issues also like booking ramlila maidan for yoga instead of a political protest – this technicality allowed use of force, call for raising a 11,000 strong armed force for ‘self-defence’, inability to carry on the fast when the govt refused to talk)

This proves that good intentions and good demands are essential for the success of an indefinite fast.

But Ramdev did manage to waste the nation’s time and, in some ways, spoil our  image

Yes, he did but it was, largely, due to 4 fundamental mistakes by the govt:

  • No clear policy for accepting public suggestions and responding to them
  • Centralization of power / Lack of delegation:

Some ‘(Empowered) Group of Ministers’ makes all discussions, decisions and communications including negotiating with Ramdev. The likes of Pranab, Chidambaram are huge bottlenecks since they decide almost everything and  take each such decision jointly. Regular decision-making is suspended at the slightest hint of trouble.

  • Lack of Transparency/communication – Govt. provides info only when it absolutely has to.
  • Tendency to find faults and dismiss positive suggestions (due to ill intent, ‘coalition compulsions’, fear of losing control / getting caught, etc.) rather than making good  suggestions workable

While ramdev announced the fast in April, it seems he had informed the govt. of his demands and/or his threat to agitate long ago (almost a year ago?). The govt. completely ignored him till May. Once it acknowledged him, govt. (PM, senior cabinet ministers, CBDT chair, etc) arguably spent too much time on him.

This post explains what the govt. could have done differently. In essence, avoid the above 4 mistakes by communicating with people, being transparent, being receptive to feedback, etc.

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4 Comments
  1. i cannot more agree on this….n i think ramdev should have a team too…..may be u should try meeting him n explaining tht….secondly…..m very happy tht u started bloggin….keep posting bro…..
    we still need to spread more awareness coz people r still not concerned abt the issue….

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Why Anna’s fast will not set a dangerous precedent « lokpal
  2. Why Anna’s fast does NOT set a dangerous precedent « Democracy4india

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