Narendra Modi’s effusive praise for Ramdev at Ramlila Maidan on Sunday effectively put the lid on tension simmering between the BJP and the yoga teacher over the last few weeks.
Less than a week ago, Ramdev had accused Modi of being in a hurry and warned the BJP against overconfidence. All was forgotten when Modi told a packed ground that “crores doing yoga across the country” in the Yoga Mahotsav would have been a world record made possible by Ramdev’s determination.
“If the government of India had the foresight, yoga would have been our ticket to the world stage. This would have been a world record and it is the fervour that Ramdev has generated among his disciples that has made it possible. It is the fire inside him and his determination… I feel a closeness to his agenda though it does scare many people who lose sleep over the issues he highlights and they create problems for him.”
It was the first public endorsement of Ramdev’s agenda since Modi had made a commitment about tax reforms at an earlier Ramdev function in Talkatora Stadium. Included in Ramdev’s list are bringing back black money, and abolition of income tax in favour of a universal transaction tax.
There was very little overt political rhetoric, but the tone was saffron, evident in the robes and also a tirade against cow slaughter from Acharya Govind Dev Giri, just back from Varanasi. As Modi looked on, expressionless, Giri talked about a “newspaper report that said India has become the highest exporter of beef.
If a country that worships the cow gets that dubious distinction, what right do people who live by the guidance of Hindutva have to live? … Tibet, Nepal and part of Kashmir went because we did not heed Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel… but for him Hyderabad would have become a mini-Pakistan. It is our good fortune that there is as man among us who matches his foresight.”
The rally came after a rocky interlude in Ramdev’s relations with the BJP, when he was reportedly sulking because of the denial of tickets to his 30-odd candidates. The man who claims to be a brahmachari but owns a Scottish island and has been on the verge of launching a party for some five years was comfortably back in the BJP scheme of things. Which means the Bharat Swabhiman workforce, which claims a block-level presence in all 600-odd districts, will be mobilised for the stated objective of making Modi prime minister.
Ramdev denies it but a source his organisation said “Swamiji did warn the BJP against overconfidence and complacency. As for the candidates, it is true Swamiji had given some 20-30 names but it is not as if we had gone begging for tickets,” said a source. The BJP, according to the sources, neither fielded any of these candidates nor accepted Ramdev’s condition that all else being the same, his candidates should get precedence.
Seats where Ramdev pushed candidates are in Rajasthan, UP, Uttarakhand (where most of his business empire is housed), Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
The first time Ramdev made a public statement of his intent to diversify into politics was in 2000 at a world convention in Hardwar. Not everybody in his establishment was comfortable with the idea but it has never quite died down, kept alive by the guru himself with his alliances with India Against Corruption and then with Anna Hazare after the unravelling of IAC. The final coming-out was the end of his fast at Ramlila in 2012 against corruption and black money, when NDA leaders gathered on the stage.