By: Ishu Kumar
Mr. Ramdev urges Indians to use ‘Indian products’, VI-John in, Gillette out. He also promotes ‘vegetarian’ products (hamburgers made of vegetarian cows don’t count). In this Mr. Ramdev is no different from other shrewd businessmen eying niche markets. Baba mudslinging his competitors’ products (imports and non-vegetarian-Indian products) reminds one of the later part of Sprite’s old slogan ‘Bhujaye Only Pyaas, Baki Sab Bakwaas’.
Mr. Ramdev’s attempt to corner a market brings back some voices from the past, voices like the Hamara Bajaj campaign. With the slogan Mr. Bajaj – spokesman of the notorious Bombay Club – sold India a false dream, that too at a price. Bajaj is ‘in some way’ ours – that is the slogan’s central message. But Mr. Bajaj didn’t just rely on his marketing teams; the Bajaj group captured niche markets by seizing government licenses which granted exclusive monopolies.
With the UPA in power Mr. Ramdev is unlikely to get government ‘support’ of the kind that Mr. Bajaj got in the 1970s. But the danger lurks dark and deep, especially if a BJP led alliance were to come to power. The RSS – which has been supporting Baba’s movement – runs the Swadeshi Jagram Manch, an organization which promotes nationalism and protectionism. SJM’s stated philosophy includes “a global alternative, which accepts only need-based transnationalism”, need or no-need would of course be decided by enlightened men in saffron.
Andrew Jackson – 7th president of the United States – said in 1837 that “…eternal vigilance by people is the price of liberty”. We ought not to wish away the power of malign business motives and bankrupt political ideas to produce economic tyranny, Hamara Bajaj teaches us not to underestimate such forces. Mr. Ramdev is one such business motive, and the SJM one such political idea. As for Mr. Ramdev, take Yoga out, and one is yet again reminded of the latter half of Sprite’s catchline
The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.