Why is Ramdev spewing the BJP's venom on fellow Indians?

This is how the RSS-BJP corrupts everybody without two grey cells to pull together in this country

Getty Images
Getty Images

Sujata Anandan

Why would you not read the namaaz  if you are a Muslim? And why should you not go to church and light candles if you are Christian? And if you are a woman, why should you not wear any clothes?

I am increasingly finding yoga guru Ramdev (I refuse to call him ‘Baba’ which in many languages is a term of endearment for a child or a father) and his statements pretty despicable. He recently made the first two statements in Rajasthan and the last in Maharashtra in the presence of the wife of the state's deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. He was compelled to apologise for that by the state women’s commission and, I think, we as civil society should run him out of places where he begins to spew such venom against other communities.

But Ramdev was not always like this. I was an early fan of his yoga camps where I heard him laud all communities, including Muslims. I believe he even organised yoga camps in Pakistan.

But this is how the RSS-BJP corrupts everybody without two grey cells to pull together in this country. Ramdev’s downfall began with the Ramlila Maidan when he attempted to escape police action for violating the peace, in women’s clothing. And then he had the temerity to liken himself to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj whose escape from Aurangzeb’s dungeons was fraught with life-threatening danger as opposed to Ramdev’s cowardly fleeing of his crime scene where he had provoked a lathi charge that injured many. But over the years, I have had many more areas of resentment against Ramdev. Starting with his yoga camps, I also bought into his Patanjali products until stories began to trickle out about his land grabs in the Aravallis and elephant and rhino territory in Assam. But soon it was the products themselves – I ran into the not-very-bright son of a domestic worker with a job at a port in Mumbai. His only task was to stick labels on shipments from China. One day he brought a label home, somehow escaping the strict vigilance at the container hub. The label was for a Patanjali product in a bottle and the impression I got from the boy was that all the products came from China and were only labelled ‘Made in India’ at the Mumbai port.

Then I began to lose hair using his shampoo, Patanjali honey was declared to contain Chinese fructose by German regulators at the same time as he was promoting it as pure honey, ghee of other brands tasted closer to my mother’s home-made ghee and once when we cooked something in his ghee, it came up as stiff and crisp as hydrated vegetable oil would render a paratha than would clarified butter. That was the end of my romance with Patanjali products. But over the years many who have worked with his company have also raised doubts about the purity of Patanjali milk and  honey – Ramdev himself does not know if he is packaging cow’s milk or goat milk, employees said, and there are not enough bees in India any longer to generate pure honey. We all know of the fraud he attempted to commit during the Covid crisis by passing off home-made immunity  booster pills as the definitive cure for Covid when his own employees had to be treated by allopathic doctors for Corona. When the World Health Organisation was compelled to deny and genuine medical professionals challenged his fraud, he swiftly retreated.

All these are some of the reasons why I believe Ramdev has to spew venom against Muslims, Christians and all other communities the BJP wishes to run out of India. Because the ruling dispensation has his measure and if he does not propagate their divisive politics, he is likely to find himself behind bars, not the least for the manner in which his guru, whose ancient knowledge Patanjali is capitalising on, died under mysterious circumstances. 

Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh had described Ramdev to me as a “common thug” once at the end of the UPA regime and said the government had all the relevant material against his multiple frauds to put him away for life and would be pursuing the case against him to its lawful conclusion. Except that Narendra Modi stormed to power a few short months later and had parked his estranged wife at Ramdev’s ashram during the campaign to keep the media from getting to her. Ramdev thought Modi would be forever grateful and give him everything he wanted from the government, not the least an ayurveda university. But Modi does not like to be beholden to anybody, not even his closest cronies and, far from giving in to Ramdev, I believe, he is holding all that information that was always with the government tight to keep Ramdev in check.

At least if Ramdev had set up his own political party as he was planning to do in the months before May 2014, he would have had some leverage today. But having been himself conned into giving up the idea by the RSS, he is now highly vulnerable and must now spew the BJP venom against its enemies.

In the UPA time, I had run into Ramdev at the homes of several ministers,  including one belonging to the Nationalist Congress Party, and a couple of top bureaucrats. What was he advising them on? Hold your breath ‐ aphrodisiacs!

I would never have believed it and thought my understanding was wrong, until Digvijaya Singh in an interaction with some Bombay journalists lammed a very senior leader of his party for unduly giving legitimacy to Ramdev in his early years, even allotting him a lot of government land.  When we asked why, Singh categorically said, “Because Ramdev was supplying him aphrodisiacs and making him feel youthful again!”

We all could well believe it because this very old man had then recently been caught on camera at mujra. But the Congress never thought to blackmail Ramdev, unlike the BJP, and decided to proceed according to law.

We must all pay the price today for that caution.

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