Baba Ramdev, a person whom The New York Times has described as “an Indian, who built Yoga Empire, a product and symbol of the New India, a yogic fusion of Richard Simmons, Dr. Oz and Oprah Winfrey, irrepressible and bursting with Vedic wisdom”, shot into fame with his yogic practises propagating it early morning to health conscious early awaking Indians watching the Aastha Channel; is now much more than just a yoga Guru.
With 2 sprawling charitable institutions - “Patanjali Yogpeeth” and “Divya Yog Mandir” generating a turnover of Rs. 1000Cr in the last fiscal year; gurukuls and foundations and yoga camps established and conducted across the world, “Bharat Swabhiman” movement which is well on its path to evolve into a political outfit; rock solid views on issues like corruption, black money, globalisation and even homosexuality, he’s well dressed (ideologically) to become a politician in his own right.
But does he have that consistency in his apparent political leadership which he shows us in his “Satyagraha” and populist views on bringing back black money and eradicating corruption from the country, something which no incumbent politician seems to be in the mood of doing as of now? Is he someone who has that capability to change the equation of Indian politics? I am unable to choose my side while pondering over an answer to this question.
Thanks to his worldwide popularity due his Yoga lessons, Baba Ramdev seems to have that brand value and the support-base in him which gives him a fair ground to definitely make an impact in the political field of our country. Unlike Jaganmohan Reddy of Andhra Pradesh who literally rose from the ashes to shake the political pillars of his state, Baba Ramdev’s ideological support which is achieved from years of early morning yoga shows on the Aastha Channel hands him out a seemingly comfortable position from where he can literally play his way with the fire of politics. And with the event of Ramlila giving him a political push, willingly or unwillingly, Baba Ramdev seems to have in hand an early dragon(worth two in the elections) for blowing a few breaths of fire on the incumbent Government.
He’s currently spearheading a movement based on neo-swadeshi ideology, which is appealing to the masses, or a part of them at least. And obviously, there are people like the leftists who accuse him of being subjecting a rapidly modernising country into sheer social conservativeness, or the critiques who accuse him of being a self-styled corporate God man of some sorts. This combination of support and hostility is pretty analogous to any ideological based political outfit in the country.
I believe Baba Ramdev is getting himself projected as a perfect blend of “Secular-Hindutva” which is kind of strange term to hear (even to coin). I justify the use of this term as he has been able to cleverly rejuvenate the spirit of national pride, majoritarian social justice and punitive hardliner agenda, which underlines few of the older RSS’ Hindutva-driven programs, also he has been able to tap into the neo-swadeshi ideology of the RSS which BJP is now no longer drawing its water from in the name of a “shining” India. And on the other hand, Baba’s acceptance of other religions being equal to Hinduism based on his claims of their ideologies being similar to those written in the Vedas, and his unruffled acceptance of sharing the same dais with other religious leaders in the name of the issue of black money in the Ramlila grounds shows him a very secular light.
His middle path ideological approach along with burning national issues acting as fodder, Baba Ramdev seems to be a very interesting ingredient in our political curry, pending his entry into politics of course.
But then I look deeper into his recently launched “Satyagraha”. For once, I did not find any sense of organisation or professional planning in his “Satyagraha” on the Ramlila grounds, which rather ended shockingly. Once Baba was moved to his fortress in Haridwar, he seemed to be that adamant teenager undergoing his puberty who is ready to rebel against anything and everything he sees in front of him, ideologically. Baba Ramdev seems to be lacking that punch which politicians like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Indira Gandhi and Narendra Modi seem to have possessed. I would rather use the word erratic to describe Baba Ramdev’s charisma in public or on camera.
Baba Ramdev’s demand of death penalty for corruption reminds me of the laws in Iran. Even his own treading into political lines seems to what Ayatollah Khomeini must have done in Iran during the late 60s and the early 70s. Even during the last days of his fast, when the Government was nervously counting on His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to convince him on breaking it, I seemed to me that the political dynamics, at least for now, was getting decided in the hands of Hindu religious leaders, and I was left wondered when this was a trailer of a what India will look like if it proceeds in Iran’s footsteps. Such extreme views radiating from a Sadhu can be quite repelling in a country like ours. And there seems to be a chance of Baba Ramdev, who succeeded as a Guru, to fail to make an impact in Indian politics.
What Baba Ramdev as in his mind for his future course is still a mystery. But the curious case of Baba Ramdev is still a riddle in the mind of this amateur follower of Indian politics. A part of me sees him as a perfect political combination of “Inclusive-Hindutva” making him like this new dish in your favourite restaurant that you just have to taste, while another and the more cynical part of me views him as a sleeping dragon who, maybe, has a Hindu equivalent of a Grand Ayatollah in himself. Politician or not, Baba Ramdev is definitely ruffling the ideological variables of his country’s political equation. It would be very amusing to see what steps he takes in future.
I know his ardent supporters will disagree to this analysis saying that he is someone purely concentrating on eradicating the social problems plaguing this land of the golden bird, at par with what Anna Hazareji is doing. But I believe, his ways are too political to be considered another struggle in civil society.
As time comes, the Holy dispenser of India’s destiny will let us all know for sure what difference truly Baba Ramdev will play in Indian politics. Till then all he remains in the eyes of this writer is a mystical religious leader which the right ideology, strong support but weak organiser; having immense potential to change Indian politics, forever.