04 April, 2009

Gurus in franchise operation

Hindustan Times, 4th April, 2009

This is one time when mixing God’s name with politics isn’t hurting anyone.

Iconic spiritual gurus Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who command huge followings for their unique ideals, are launching their respective campaigns urging people to vote in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Ramdev’s newly formed Bharat Swabhiman Trust is spreading his election-related preachings through volunteers in over 6 lakh villages and towns in 616 districts across India. The objective is to achieve 100 per cent voting everywhere.

“This is to strengthen democracy, kill corruption and get ourselves some honest legislators,” Ramdev told Hindustan Times.

With slogans like “Cast your vote but don’t vote your caste” and a whole list of voting-related Hindi jingles and couplets, the volunteers will be going door-to-door in villages to ensure that voter participation is the highest.

Ramdev, whose unique Yoga style has a cult following, has also communicated to political parties that they must bring back the supposedly humungous amount of Indian black money lodged in Swiss banks.

“Around Rs 72,80,000 crore of public money is illegally parked in Swiss accounts. The party that promises to bring that back will get our votes,” said SK Tijarawala, a close aide of the Baba.

Ramdev also assured that he did not have any political aspiration. “I am not a threat to anybody, neither do I have any personal ambition,” he said.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AoL) foundation, on the other hand, has tied up with groups like Youth For Equality to involve youngsters in “nation building by strengthening the democratic processes”. “Exercising your voting rights is a vital step towards empowerment. The key issues we are highlighting are Corruption and Terrorism,” said Sangeeta Anand, spokeswoman for AoL Delhi.

While AoL will be conducting its programmes through the year, Ramdev’s volunteers will launch ‘Vote Jagaran’ rallies five days prior to polling. Ramdev will kick-start the campaign in Chhattisgarh.

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