On 3 June 2011, nextGen India conducted their first debate. Ramdev Baba’s fast which is now at the centre of India’s attention enjoyed the honour of being the first debated topic of Next Gen India.
The panel of the debate constituted Surya Narayan Ganesh (a diehard Congress supporter on twitter), Ashik Gosaliya (political commentator) , Jaymin Panchal (in the publication industry), Vimoh (a writer and columnist) and “Yogi Baba Kamdev” (impersonates Baba Ramdev on twitter with a comic twist).
While Surya and Yogi Baba opined that Ramdev’s fast was a mere farce and an attempt at gaining political mileage, the other panelists held views diametrically different to them. Ashik said everybody in India had a right to protest and since the government of India had broken all records of corruption, these kinds of protests were necessary. Jaymin and Vimoh tried to shrug off any communal angles to the ongoing fast, and held the view anybody against corruption was welcome to take part in the “satyagrah”.
Candid Surya admitted that UPA government was deep in the muck of corruption but he asserted that Congress was serious about fighting graft and also shared some informations on government’s actions against black money. He also reiterated that RTI, a big tool for whistle blowers was gifted to Indians by UPA I government.
Yogi Baba was concerned that this “politics” of fast and the government reaction to it set a bad precedent and in future anyone can blackmail the government over irrational demands just by the virtue of having a few thousand followers. Vimoh tried to play down this probability saying detractors of Ramdev were concerned only about the “fast” bit of the andolan and not the “corruption” part. He was reiterated by Jaymin.
In the second round of the discussion, the moderator posed a question to each of the panelists and discussion ensued on their replies. The main debatad topic was the “mixed bag” of demands Ramdev had placed before the government, Ramdev’s personal credibility and ideals, whether listening to non elected people like Anna or Ramdev was diluting the authority of the parliament, and the politicization of the fast.
Another question that caught the fancy of the panelists was whether the reaction to these agitations would have been the same had BJP been in power. Jaymin and Vimoh rubbished it as a hypothesis, Ashik was non committal while Surya and Yogi Baba agreed that these andolans would not get half the support they are receiving now because most of the support is coming from Sangh Parivar. Yogi Baba presented a beautiful corollary comparing politicians to cockroaches to this respect.
By the end of the debate all agreed that India has an elected government and it is answerable to the electorate. If the government fails to perform its duties, it must face the music. But the manner of protest and the people leading it should have the minimum credibility.
Alongside the discussion, feedback from audience on twitter was also being continuously shared. The audience also participated in a serious of polls, in which 52% of the respondents supported Ramdev’s fast while 80% considered it was politically motivated farce.
All in all, the beginning has been encouraging and the nextGen India team is excited for the upcoming debates in future.