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Twin gurus power Flight LK
Ramdev, Sri Sri at book release

Bhopal, June 30: L.K. Advani’s campaign was boosted by two prize catches today: spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and yoga messiah Baba Ramdev, both of whom have millions of followers.

Ravi Shankar was indeed scheduled to release the Hindi edition of Advani’s autobiography, My Country My Life, in Bhopal. But the big surprise was Ramdev stepping into the chartered plane that flew in journalists, BJP leaders and Advani’s friends and family from Delhi.

More so since the yoga guru has always claimed to be apolitical and flaunted his dislike for communal politics.

He sat quietly through the flight as Advani, wife Kamla, daughter Pratibha and son Jayant took centre-stage, looking after the guests. However, Ramdev drew the loudest cheers as he got off the plane in Bhopal.

After lunch with Advani at chief minister S.S. Chauhan’s residence, he explained his position, telling reporters that supping with the shadow Prime Minister did not mean he was with the BJP. After all, Advani wasn’t an “untouchable”.

Would he go to Sonia Gandhi, too? “Why not?” Ramdev replied. “Sonia is the country’s daughter-in-law. I will go to any leader who is committed to the country’s welfare but not to anti-national forces.”

The yoga guru, however, opened up at the book release, whose scale would have embarrassed many a political mobilisation programme.

He again stressed he was apolitical but conceded he saw “something special in Advani”, drawing loud applause by hoping the nation would gain from his leadership.

But the Baba wasn’t done. Recalling that he had always advocated a younger leadership, he said: “Only those should be considered old whose ideas have faded and resolve weakened. Advani has no blood pressure, no diabetes, no bypass surgery at 82 at a time 18-year-olds are surviving on medicine.”

He went to the length of suggesting that Advani’s strict diet, if followed by others, could cure inflation.

If anyone still had doubts about the Baba’s inclinations, he openly supported the BJP’s position on the Amarnath land controversy.

Advani had criticised the Congress in the morning for its alleged surrender on the issue and Sushma Swaraj had argued that India’s future would be decided by struggles such as the one on the Amarnath pilgrimage. Ravi Shankar, whose followers crowded the book release, also expressed shock at the row in Kashmir and praised Advani’s commitment to social service.

Perhaps overwhelmed by their presence, Advani avoided long political expositions. He said: “I once wrote a booklet titled A Tale of Two Emergencies (Hitler’s and Indira Gandhi’s). Then, a tale of two temples (Somnath and Ayodhya). Now, there is scope for a tale of two saints.”

Chief ministers Narendra Modi, B.S. Yeddyurappa and Raman Singh, present at the gathering, could justifiably complain of being ignored.

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