In the Baba’s shadow

If Anna looked shrunken on Sunday, he and his team are to blame

At Jantar Mantar on Sunday, all the Ramdev staples were on show. There were the incredible statistics. India's emasculation, said the Baba, was due to the "Rs 400 lakh crore" of black money spirited abroad. The assertion of locus standi, at once feisty and defensive: "Yoga bhi sikhayenge, desh bhi bachayenge." "This country does not need secularism as much as it needs nationalism," announced Maulana Kalbe Sadik Rizvi, also on the dais, to the Baba's approving nods and an ecstatic round of applause.

Ramdev taunted the English-speaking elites — now breaking into a rustic Haryanvi, and then affecting a posh accent, rolling his tongue over "conspirrrracy". He questioned all FDI: "What is the source, who is the ultimate owner? 80 per cent of it is black money." He took aim at the favoured target of the day, second only to IPL — "pradhan mantriji... jaago Manmohan pyaare". As he played to the gallery, the chuckling Baba seemed to exult in his own showmanship.

But there was something new in Ramdev's show last Sunday. At one point, suddenly sober, he assumed the stern tone of the senior campaigner. "The point on corruption can be made without taking names," Ramdev rebuked Team Anna. He was referring to Arvind Kejriwal's speech earlier, naming politicians. "This was the protocol for the day," he said.

Team Anna has subsequently joined the argument on Twitter and in TV studios. But at Jantar Mantar on Sunday, Anna Hazare quietly heard out the Baba's reprimand as he sat on the stage, looking small and subdued in a long line of speakers dominated by saffron-wrapped yoga gurus and acharyas.

With volunteers and workers of the Patanjali Yogpeeth and Bharat Swabhiman Trust threading the crowd, and his PR machine sending out e-mail updates to the media at a furious pace (including a list of 12 panelists for the evening TV shows), Ramdev owned the stage and everything on it. Yet, Ramdev's show on Sunday ended up being more about Team Anna.

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