Day before yesterday, when I saw over the television that Baba Ramdev, Swami Agnivesh, Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal and a couple of thousands others had collected at the Parliament Street in New Delhi to protest against massive corruption in various agencies of the government epitomised by the Commonwealth Games, Adarsh Building Society and 2G spectrum scams, I decided that I had to be there lending my support.
On my way to the rally I passed through the Jantar Mantar Road and found parked there, in a haphazard manner, thirty to forty buses, each sporting on the bonnet a big plastic banner announcing the protest rally under the auspices of Ramdev’s Bharat Swabhiman movement. Banana skins and other remnants of edibles were strewn all over. Plastic banners and garbage on the road, of course, did not do much credit to the movement’s environment-friendly image.
Anna Hazare, with his monumental work for socio-economic development of Ralegaon Siddhi and surrounding villages over almost half a century and anti-corruption fasts which have led to resignation or dismissal of many corrupt politicians and bureaucrats in Maharashtra, surprised everyone, me in particular, by saying that he would be glad to take instructions from Baba Ramdev in this country-wide war against corruption. I asked myself whether it was the great man’s humility or his acknowledgment of the people power with Ramdev.
In his concluding address, Ramdev gave, in his inimitable style, a stirring call to banish corruption from the country. He also exulted on the “biggest ever rally” at the Jantar Mantar which the people had joined merely at his call. He claimed that for organising a rally like that the political parties would have to spend lacs and crores but the Bharat Swabhiman did not spend a paisa; on their own the people had hired 500 buses to come to the protest spot. But in an informal talk, some of the organisers quite innocently told me that the Bharat Swabhiman units had been given a target number of bus-loads of people to bring. And the number of buses, as I have said above, could not be more than forty and this corresponded well with the total number of people at the protest – about 3 to 4 thousand, of which about a thousand would have been on their own, like me.
When this all ended I was left wondering whether those sworn to fighting corruption should adopt some of the very methods used by the present day politicians – ferrying in buses people from near-by places to artificially swell the number of one’s supporters and making wildly exaggerated claims about the size of the crowd or the level of support one had. So, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, that is, the more it changes, the more it remains the same!