Reuters report exposes quid pro quo between Modi, Ramdev 

Commenting on the Narendra Modi-Baba Ramdev partnership, the <i>Reuters </i>report states that it reveals the ‘inner workings of influence and money in Modi’s India’

Photo by Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

NH Web Desk

Since Narendra Modi came to power, yoga guru and entrepreneur, Baba Ramdev’s company has received more than an estimated $46 million in discounts for land acquisitions in states controlled by the BJP, an investigative report by Reuters has revealed.

“Modi and Ramdev, each a product of the Hindu right, owe part of their success to the other,” the report read, adding that Ramdev deployed resources from his consumer goods empire for mobilising voters and synchronising messaging with the BJP in a 2014 campaign that was larger and more tightly coordinated with Modi’s party than is publicly known.”

Commenting on the Modi-Ramdev partnership, the report stated: “It is a partnership that reveals the inner workings of influence and money in Modi’s India, where the relatively secular world view of the Congress party he ousted is being chipped away.”

Claiming that Ramdev’s business has boomed since the BJP took power, the report stated that “revenues at his consumer goods enterprise are soaring – from about $156 million in the financial year ending March 2013 to more than $322 million in the year to March 2015, according to financial filings. In early May, Ramdev said revenues in the financial year just ended had jumped to about $1.6 billion.”

“Products of Patanjli, according to the report, are found from the scantest villages to teeming cities and are sold in the canteens of India’s security forces and served on some tables in the nation’s Parliament,” report said, adding that Ramdev’s firm, Patanjali, received something of an official imprimatur from a newly created ministry and BJP leaders, who happen to be the signatories of a pledge before the 2014 elections.

Citing a video purportedly released by Ramdev, the report explained that Shapath Patra or oath document, laid out nine pledges including protection of cows, and reforming much of Indian life to make it “swadeshi.”

According to the report, that set of beliefs, the oath said, extended to the courts, government, cultural institutions and education. The five signatories pictured in the video included the present ministers of foreign affairs, finance, internal security and transportation. But none of the ministers responded to questions about the pledge, report stated.

The report further makes following revelations:

  • Since Modi took office in May 2014, Patanjali has acquired almost 2,000 acres of land for building factories, research facilities and establishing supply chains of herbs for its products.
  • During the rule of the previous Congress-led government the firm had been selling large tracts of its land holdings. Two of the four acquisitions exceeding 100 acres were in states controlled by Modi’s BJP. A third was in an area where the governing party was in the process of partnering with the BJP.
  • In the BJP-controlled states, Patanjali received a discount on the land purchased of 77% off market prices.
  • Patanjali received a discount of more than $10 million, or 88%, on a 40-acre plot in the BJP state of Madhya Pradesh last year.
  • In Nagpur, Patanjali had paid some ₹590 million (about $9.1 million at current rates) for the 234-acre property. The land abuts a special economic zone (SEZ) promoted by the state and its market price was more than ₹2.6 billion (about $40.5 million)
  • The largest transaction was a transfer of some 1,200 acres of undeveloped land in Assam in October and December 2014. The deal was struck by the Bodoland Territorial Council, an agency that oversees an autonomous region and is controlled by the Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF). The BPF had broken from a Congress-led coalition in the state earlier in 2014, before allying with the BJP in January 2016.
  • In Uttar Pradesh, where Ramdev’s company acquired a tract of land not overseen by the BJP or an administration favorable to the ruling party, the report said, the savings were smaller: 300 acres of land at 25% below market prices in November 2016.
  • Within half a year of Modi coming to power, his administration transformed an obscure government department of traditional Indian medicine into a standing ministry dedicated to popularising, among other things, the practice of yoga and the use of ayurvedic products, for which Patanjali is a market leader. The ministry now regulates many of Patanjali’s products.
  • The Finance Ministry in 2015 defined yoga as a “charitable purpose”, reducing the associated tax burden, particularly benefitting corporations such as Patanjali.
  • Large dividend payments made to Balkrishna, Ramdev’s brother Ram Bharat and other owners. In one company, Balkrishna and minority shareholders received about $18 million in five years. In another company controlled by Ramdev’s brother, dividends declared one year amounted to 60% of profits.
  • A communications firm called Social Revolution Media and Research Private Limited was started by two directors from companies under the Patanjali umbrella. It held weekly meetings with the BJP’s information technology division to coordinate messages on Twitter and other social platforms.

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