All about New York Times bet on Baba Ramdev for India’s PM post

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New Delhi:

In what is being called back home an election year, The New York Times has floated the idea of Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev “running for the post of Prime Minister of India”.

For now, it looks highly unlikely. And it may be so in the near future. It has four-five days since such a guess was made by one of the leading US newspapers. Yet, Ramdev has been conspicuously silent about it.

And, so no one knows how the Yoga Guru has taken it and the possibility of his turning out to be a virtual Donald Trump of India which was also suggested by the newspaper.

Thus, the question that arises is: Does Ramdev has political ambitions?

For the answer to this million-dollar riddle, Robert F Worth, the NYT writer of Ramdev story that was published in its magazine section on Friday (July 27), asked Ramdev the penultimate question.

Worth writes: “Ramdev founded a short-lived political party (Bharat Swabhiman Party) in 2010 and has since been rumoured to be weighing a political career himself. When I brought up the question, he smilingly batted it away, saying that he’d become a ‘nonpolitical person’ and that the triumph of the BJP had obviated any need for him to run for office. ‘(Narendra) Modi is an honest prime minister’, he told me. ‘He is a visionary and a missionary. He will win the next term (in the 2019 elections). He will build a strong foundation for India’.”

Whatever may be the case, Ramdev has often created ripples in political quarters and this has been more so vis-à-vis the Hindutva bandwagon despite his being a staunch votary of the BJP and RSS-style of spiritual and cultural nationalism.

The flip-flop that made chinks in the ties - Yogi Adityanath and Ramdev

During the initial months and years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule, the Sangh Parivar found it to be rather queer that cult figures like Ramdev and Art of Living Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar have grown too close to Delhi’s top power circuit. Although this is passé now, a new controversy arose a few months ago when Ramdev blamed the Uttar Pradesh government of dragging its feet from allowing Baba’s Patanjali Ayurved to build a food park besides Yamuna Expressway in NOIDA. This has been so despite the proposal to raise a food processing and packaging park in Rahul Gandhii’s constituency Amethi in UP was shot down by the Government amid the Congress’ protests.

In Ramdev’s case, land was allotted on the outskirts of Delhi by the previous Samajwadi Party government in UP about two years ago. And with the advent of Yogi Adityanath’s government in the state, Ramdev was seeking a nod for transfer of about one-fifth of the 425-acre land to a Patanjali’s subsidiary before commencing work on the food park. The project is stated to be worth Rs 6,000 crore.

As the state government permission was taking time, Ramdev’s close associate and Patanjali managing director Acharya Balkrishna threatened to take the project outside UP, making the Yogi government to finally relent and the project was cleared.

However, this flip-flop made chinks in the relationship between the saffron-robed phenomena of politics and business -- Yogi Adityanath and Ramdev -- visible. And the project is believed to have been cleared at the intervention by the Central Government since the two could not get along.

The NOIDA food park is also said to have been shown green flag by the Prime Minister on Sunday (July 29) in Lucknow where Modi has set rolling work on myriad statewide projects totaling 81, with a total worth of a whopping Rs 60,000 crore.

Ramdev - India’s answer to Donald Trump

This is obviously with an eye on 2019 general elections. And with it, the post of the prime minister is also going to be up for grabs. This is so at least supposedly for now for most observers. More so for those who are abroad. But nearer home, there is little apparent or open wrangling for the premiership of the country as the Opposition is yet to actually narrow down upon and select its bet against Modi and may well leave it as such till the results are known.

Obviously, it is not so in the US as also the rest of the world where India is under watch. And, so the former Beirut bureau chief of NYT saw some promise in Ramdev though there are little or no chances for it to be staked right now. Yet, it can well be kept in reserve for future by the larger Sangh Parivar.

And, thus, Worth has written a long piece vis-à-vis Ramdev in the paper’s weekend supplement. It says, “In his own way, Ramdev is India’s answer to Donald Trump, and there is much speculation that he may run for the prime minister post himself. Like Trump, he heads a multibillion-dollar empire. And like Trump, he is a bombastic TV personality whose relationship with truth is elastic; he cannot resist a branding opportunity — his name and face are everywhere in India.”

True, it may be, but only to the extent that Ramdev has been getting enormous patronage and support since Modi came to power. And, apprehensions that he may have caused along the way have so far been tackled not to let him reach anywhere close to active politics with a direct role for himself.
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