June 7, 2011 10:53:50 am
I hope you are has horrified as I am by the entire Ramdevji drama playing out on TV. This is the story of how someone made into a superstar by television and his message of yoga,has exploited the medium to his advantage and then has begun to lose that magic by overplaying his hand and perhaps overstaying his welcome.
Of course,the UPA government’s mishandling of the fast for corruption has its own lessons for media management — something the central government needs to reflect upon deeply. There is no point appointing a committee of ministers to brief the media — so far I have seen P Chidambaram in the unfortunate role — and still making such a hash of the public relations job.
Once the government had decided to break up Ramdevji’s party on Saturday-Sunday,they needed to be out there explaining their side of the story and occupying the public mind space even as the Delhi police took over the public space of Ramlila Grounds.
Instead,the TV news channels ran footage continuously of the lathi charging policemen and Ramdev’s speech and the views of his followers being hounded out of the grounds. Even into late Sunday morning,it was BJP and Ramdevji who were visible and audible on TV. By the time Subodh Kant Sahay came into view and explained the government’s position,the mood in our homes was against the government and its actions. In a 24X7 media environment you cannot afford to wait because if you do others will move in.
Ramdevji,meanwhile,went from fire and brimstone to being nasty and hysterical. In a word,he seemed to have lost it. Partly,this could be due to his over exposure. He has been offering himself to the media during his trip through Madhya Pradesh and in the days leading upto his June 4 fast. He was continually on news channels,making demands or statements. By Friday evening,he had already begun proceedings at Ramlila Grounds. So by the time we got into the actual fast on Saturday,we had already heard and seen enough.
As the day wore on,he began to tire before our eyes and when the government released the letter signed by his associate,agreeing to call off the fast subject to certain conditions,he had begun to get defensive and hence,more melodramatic. His words and demands became extravagant and there was a cornered look about him.
So he was beginning to lose the battle. When we met him on Sunday,back in his ashram,he had lost his cool and that had only a little to do with the heat. He began to rant against the government,Sonia Gandhi and it wasn’t nice. There’s a basic contradiction here: Ramdevji cannot preach yoga and pranayama,both of which are supposed to teach us how to remain calm and maintain our emotional and mental equilibrium and then behave in such a disturbed and angry manner himself.
He cannot have it both ways — and that’s what he is trying to do. Had the government handled the situation better,Ramdevi ji may have done more harm than good to himself.
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