Tuesday 24 May 2022
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The blackmail that wasn’t

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10417615 10152527689814015 2898589226008573191 nHere is a letter (to the right) the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Babul Supriyo from Asansol, West Bengal, has issued, rubbishing reports in a section of the that he had “blackmailed” Baba Ramdev to secure his election nomination.

It is, of course, a matter of interpretation. What his article in the Sunday supplement of Anandabazar Patrika suggests is that in a flight (dated 28 February) he was seated close to Baba Ramdev. He overheard the latter talking about the probability of certain BJP candidates’ victory in the Lok Sabha elections. Jocularly, as the drift of the article indicates, he asked the yoga guru if he could be fielded in the elections, too. He said if the answer was a “no”, he would go around telling people that the baba was in the business of distributing election tickets.

The baba reportedly burst into a laughter. Thereafter, the duration of the flight was spent in light-hearted banter, though the topic returned to election every now and then.

According to the article written by the small-time singer Hindi film audience hasn’t heard much of him since the numbers of Kaho Na Pyaar Hai were rendered an aide of the yogi, who also happens to be a volunteer of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), called a few days later (on 1 March) to ask whether he could spend the kind of money (Rs 70 lakh) candidates shell out to win elections. He said he wished to contest because he admired the leadrship of Narendra Modi.

On 4 March, Baba Ramdev called Babul Supriyo to inform the latter that he would contest from Asansol. When he inquired why that seat was spotted for him, he was told because the city had a good percentage of Hindi-speaking people, and he was one of the few Bengalis who could manage the language. In retrun, the baba said, the singer had to promise he would learn the pavanamuktasana (a yogic exercise to release gas from digestive and excretory systems of the body).

Now, was it blackmail? To this columnist, it does not come across as such. If Babul Supriyo had actually carried out the threat, it would at the most drag Baba Ramdev to yet another controversy that would stay in the news headlines hardly for a day. Besides, the yogi could deny any such conversation transpired in the flight, or he could say there must have been a gap in communication between the two co-passengers.

Clearly, the Hindi and other regional newspapers that picked up the story with the misinterpretation of “blackmail” either got the translation wrong, or they were as dushtu a word in Bengali Babul Supriyo used in the article, which does not mean “evil” unlike in Hindi, but “naughty” or “bratty” as the singer.

TIChanging the trend in West Bengal till the 1990s when personalities from the film industry were not taken seriously in politics, the last decade saw a bevy of actors and singers from Tollygunge make it to the electoral with success. The Trinamool Congress led the charge by fielding several Bengali actors and singers in Vidhan Sabha as well as Lok Sabha elections. This time, the BJP thought of matching it with its own ‘stars’. Given this new proclivity, it wouldn’t have been too difficult for Babul Supriyo to secure his nomination even if he had not chanced upon this blackmail-that-wasn’t.

On his part, Baba Ramdev was undeniably taking keen interest in the last general elections, but the BJP was in no way accepting his wish as their command. Those who watched the campaign with earnest would recall the baba had also sulked in between for a few days. Those in the know of the ouutfits know why he did. Therefore, a chance encounter with Baba Ramdev was in no way a guarantee for Babul Supriyo’s ticket, blackmail or no blackmail.

I rest my case with a screenshot (below) of the page on ABP‘s site that carries the article. Those who can read the script would agree the section of the that Supriyo has accused of “yellow journalism” made a mountain out of a molehill. Deliberately?


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Surajit Dasgupta
Surajit Dasgupta
Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sirf News Surajit Dasgupta has been a science correspondent in The Statesman, senior editor in The Pioneer, special correspondent in Money Life, the first national affairs editor of Swarajya, executive editor of Hindusthan Samachar and desk head of MyNation

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