Yoga guru Baba Ramdev, founder of Patanjali Ayurved, was the guest at Express Adda held in Delhi last week, where he spoke about politics, yoga, religion, global economics and Patanjali’s expansion plans as it forays into dairy and textiles
On joining politics
Apart from being an ascetic, I am also a citizen of India and I am answerable to my country. That is why whenever there is a political crisis, I should do what I feel is best for the country. Politics is not my full-time occupation. In 2010, I announced a political party, as the country had come to a political standstill. I’m just a man from a village and have no political ambitions. Like they would say in my village, Sonia Gandhi ne meri koi bhains thodi na khol rakhi hai, which means we have no animosity against her. As far as the question of a political alternative goes, when I first started my movement in 2009, there was no strong political alternative and that is when I said there needs to be a respectable political institution in place, something I believe in till today.
On PM Modi
I have known (Narendra) Modiji for 15 years, and we have had some meetings before the 2014 elections. During those meetings, he told me that he supported my vision for a beautiful India by rooting out black money, not 100 per cent but 200 per cent. And as you know, I’ve said not once but several times that I have no political ambition. I have no desire to become an MP, CM or PM. I just want my country to prosper and am prepared to do anything to make that happen, but I will not brook any political partnerships. That is because of my resolution to provide the country with a strong political alternative and as I came to realise that Modiji was that alternative, I put all my trust in him as has the rest of the country. We all hope and believe that he will prove to be the most successful prime minister the country has ever seen.
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On the BJP
You form an emotional attachment with some people in your lives, and that’s what I have with Modiji. I don’t represent any party and never will. Our friendship is based on a commonality of thought, principles, ideology and policies. And that would be the case with anyone, irrespective of their party. I was very friendly with AB Bardhan, who people feel was a very strict communist. Sometimes people get so upset just over a colour. People say we’re secular but as soon as they see saffron colour, they get agitated. I have no problem with anyone’s shirt, jeans, sari, burkha, beard or cap, so why should people have a problem with what I wear? We should all just peacefully coexist, which is what I think secularism is.
On Amit Shah
I have seen Amit Shah at close quarters — be it his personal relationships or his political thought. While most people have only seen his hard side, I’ve met him innumerable times and have never seen him angry. When he speaks about his hopes and aspirations for the country, its past achievements, the direction of its future, he gets lost in his thought on how to take it forward. Whenever it comes to the country, he’s the softest person, ready to do whatever he can to aid it. He also cherishes his personal relationships and is always ready to lend a hand. They say about politicians in this country that once they climb the ladder of power, the first thing they do is kick the ladder so no one else can follow. For him, politics is not a business; he is not a man chasing any political berth or position. He’s committed to an ideal.
These last few months have seen a lot of effort, which have resulted in the uncovering of thousands of crores. Two steps are being taken towards this. Earlier, people would spend inordinate amounts of time visiting various civic agencies while trying to get their work done and bills paid; Digital India is making the process easier and more transparent. With transparency comes accountability, which, in turn, will increase the traceability of transactions and help build the trust people have in the system. That’s the problem with black money, it is not traceable. So Digital India will help curtail corruption and the storing of black money by making all these processes accessible and transparent. So that is one good thing: in the future, black money will be much harder to hide.
See, reform, change and transformation are different things. So while there have been some reforms, and thereby some change, to entirely transform will take some time. Modiji has said that he will return the money to the country and I trust he’ll do that.
On his business interests
We have just launched four verticals in the market for which there are around 4,500 distributors and an entire supply chain has been set up. There are various production units and R&D facilities where we’ve employed 200 scientists. We’ve already invested Rs 250 crore and we’ll be putting in another Rs 500 crore into research. People say Babaji still sleeps on the floor but he has employed scientists at salaries of Rs 50 lakh to a crore per year. We’ve launched four verticals — foods, beverages, natural cosmetics and home care. We also see a lot of room for improvement in the dairy sector so now we’ll work towards that. We have no problem with Amul or any other domestic organisation, but who is Nestle to sell milk in our country considering the farms, farmers and cattle are all ours. We got 230 acre of land from the Maharashtra government for food park through an open tender. I even invited other people to join, at half the rate, but nobody came forward. I think that’s what the government and Modiji should do now — offer land to Indian enterprises with some subsidies, so that India becomes world’s largest manufacturing hub. Maharashtra gave 400 acres, Akhileshji (UP CM) is giving more than 400 acres to us in Noida, which he just got approved by the state cabinet. Tomorrow, Mamtaji will give us some land. So it’s not like we have any political barriers or obligations.
On promoting swadeshi
I saw that this country of Mahatma Gandhi, which was formerly a foreigner’s colony and freed by the efforts of Gandhiji and other freedom fighters like Sukhdev, Bhagat Singh and Rajguru who would go around singing of inclusive development for the betterment of our country and people, I’m only making these dreams come true. I don’t own a single share in Patanjali Ayurved. I’m an unpaid brand ambassador. I have no problems with jeans or a skirt or langotis, wear whatever you want to, but wear something that has been made in the country.
My dream is that somebody in India sets up a parallel network to Google. But then people will say that Baba has started a new business. The problem is that in our country, no one would have said anything if I had remained a poor man in my village, but now I’m working for the betterment of the country. God willing, one day we’ll set up our own Facebook and Google. And Gandhiji used to say about swadeshi, that what is available in your country, use that first, what is not there, seek help from outside. So the principle of swadeshi is scientific and not a compromise.
On Pakistani artists and boycotting Chinese goods
Why shouldn’t we talk about boycott? Imagine if the bullet that martyred a soldier instead struck your mother, wife or daughter. We keep trying to intellectualise things but it’s only when we face reality, do we realise the true value of things. Right now, there is a controversy over Pakistani artists. I have no hatred for anyone, I am like (Lord) Ram, in the sense that I love everyone. But if someone comes as Raavan, I am prepared to destroy them.
I have no problem with Pakistan or China or anybody else. But when China does thousands of crores of trade with us, it uses the profits from that trade to increase its military strength and aid Pakistan in encroachments on our territory and terrorist incursions, that is not correct. So China needs to improve itself. And the only way it will learn to do that is if it faces socio-economic pressure from the rest of the world, so we need to pressurise its administration.
Similarly, we need to put pressure on Pakistan. No one is saying they (Pakistani artists) are terrorists, that’s a misinterpretation. But they need to do a couple of things. Firstly, whenever there is a terrorist attack, like there was recently, apart from one or two people the rest were silent. Is India only a place to earn money and eat biryani? Have they no compassion? They’ll just earn their crores and not comment. Are their tongues tied? Can’t they speak out against terrorism? Is this right? If you see somebody being violated or mistreated in front of you and you say nothing, that is not freedom, that is callousness and uncaring.
On surgical strikes
During the surgical strikes, our Army went there to take out the terrorist camps, I think we should just send missiles from here to wipe out terrorist camps across the order. Similarly, all the people preaching violence like Azhar Masood and Dawood should be killed; they are a threat to all humanity. And I think Modiji will be able to accomplish this task.
On AB Vajpayee
I hope Vajpayeeji gets to spend his remaining time in peace; the country loves and respects him very much and I’m sure, he also wants to see his successors flourish. No father wouldn’t want his son to succeed more than him nor does any teacher not want his student to surpass him. If you ask Vajpayeeji this question, he will surely say I want to see Modi ahead of me.
Till my last breath, I will not target any Indian company. If competition occurs between the brands by itself, that’s all right, but we won’t actively pursue them. Yes, we will help control their prices for the benefit of the consumers. We’ll show them the way to do it, that is the work of a sanyasi.
We will bring Patanjali into the online market slowly. We have prepared an online bridge for that, which you will see in a few days. We are also in touch with other international retailers and we will begin soon. We are trying to create a channel which will only retail Patanjali.