An FIR was lodged against yoga guru Ramdev on Saturday for making “vulgar comments” a day earlier against Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. Ramdev had said in Lucknow: “He (Rahul Gandhi) goes to Dalits’ houses for honeymoon and picnics… Had he married a Dalit girl, his luck could have clicked and he would have become the PM.”
In Vadodara on Saturday, the yoga guru expressed regret to the Dalit community but claimed his remarks were “misrepresented”. He said: “The statement I made has been misrepresented. The term ‘honeymoon period is over’ is commonly used in the political language. I tried to use it in that sense.” But he insisted that the Congress vice president visited homes of the poor for “publicity stunt, picnic or tourism”.
But the incident has brought into focus another related issue: That the Election Commission has been finding it difficult to take direct action against Ramdev as he is not covered under the model code of conduct.
The Congress has repeatedly complained to the EC against Ramdev, accusing him of using foul language against the Gandhi family. Congress general secretary Ajay Maken had met the election commissioners on Thursday and sought action against him in this regard.
CPM leader Brinda Karat also took on Ramdev for his comments, saying the self-declared “baba” had made uncivilised statements demeaning and insulting Dalit women. “He should be prosecuted under the SC/ST Act. The EC should also take suo motu notice of his outrageous comments and take appropriate action,” she added.
But even after repeated complaints, including those made by Dalit organisations since Friday, the commission has not been able to rein in Ramdev.
The reason is the poll panel’s limited sphere of authority. The model code and election rules cover only political parties, its activists and allied institutes. Ramdev is neither associated with any party, nor is a poll candidate. And this has proved to be an escape route for him.
“Whatever we can, we have done,” an EC official said. The commission had last week directed all chief electoral officers to take an undertaking from the organisers of yoga camps that the events wouldn’t be used for political purpose, the direction stated.
But even the government has not helped, former chief election commissioners say. “Most of the reforms suggested by the commission have been pending for 15 years now,” said former CEC TS Krishnamurthy.
Former CEC SY Quraishi admitted that the commission had been slow in initiating action against hate-mongers in this poll season. “Delayed action by EC may not be good for a healthy democracy,” he said at the launch of his book, ‘Undocumented Wonder’.