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Isn't it odd? Even Kejriwal kept quiet on Art of Living damage

Panini Anand | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:53 IST

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal likes to position himself as the polar opposite of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on every count. But what's the one thing common to both of them? It's Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living event on the banks of the Yamuna in Delhi on 11, 12 and 13 March.

More specifically, they were united in their silence on the issue. And this, despite environmentalists raising serious concerns and alarms about the event.

Also read - Between the lines: NGT didn't stop #AOL event, but there's more to its order

The PM's presence at the event is not yet confirmed, and sources suggest he might skip the event. However, his government's support and consent is very clear - the Centre has even given Rs 2.25 crore as aid to the event.

However, it's Kejriwal's silence that's more surprising. He has tried to project himself as a man who stands up for the environment, who cares about the severe air pollution in the capital. The introduction of the Odd-Even scheme was a strong step in this direction.

However, when it came to the damage being caused to the riverbank and the river bed, those same eyes seemed to be shut tight.

Also read - Zenspeak: Sri Sri and the art of brainwashing

Post-NGT verdict

When environmentalists were raising flags about rule violations and the damage they would cause to the Yamuna floodplain, Kejriwal didn't say a word.

Aam Aadmi Party leaders insisted, off the record, that they had nothing to do with the event, and that it was a matter between the Centre and the organisers. They also said the party was waiting for the National Green Tribunal to hear the matter and take a decision.

At Wednesday's hearing, the NGT fined the organisers and the Delhi Development Authority, but cleared the event. And soon after, Kejriwal finally spoke, on Twitter.

Needless to say, Kejriwal is one of the guests for the three-day event.

Kejriwal's tryst with godmen

So, why has the Delhi CM been so soft on this event?

Those who remember the days of the India Against Corruption movement might recall that in August 2011, Sri Sri was one of the top negotiators on Kejriwal's side in trying to find a way out of the IAC-government impasse.

It was Sri Sri's event management team which actually helped Kejriwal with the movement and its media coverage from a very early stage. The guru's supporters were asked to join the movement in big numbers, and his support was crucial to Kejriwal at that point of time.

Kejriwal broke his silence after the NGT verdict penalised the organisers but let the event go ahead

Kejriwal has shared close relations with both Sri Sri and yoga guru Baba Ramdev. The difference between the two gurus, however, lies in the style of functioning - while Ravi Shankar prefers to remain in the background, Ramdev loves being at the forefront. This is why Ramdev has been a more visible presence next to Kejriwal that Ravi Shankar.

But this doesn't reduce Sri Sri's importance to Kejriwal's personal and political life. The godman is, thus, quite at home being in a city that has Kejriwal as its CM.

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First published: 10 March 2016, 10:16 IST
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.