Baba's 'plan' that went bust

Yoga televangelist Ramdev had proposed a "maha Kamraj" plan to revive the BJP in 2010, offering to merge his Bharat Swabhiman Andolan with it and jointly campaign for political and social change.

By RASHEED KIDWAI
  • Published 20.06.16
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RSS REJECTED RAMDEV PROJECT TO REVIVE BJP, SAYS BOOK

Ramdev leads a yoga rehearsal session at Rajpath in New Delhi on Sunday ahead of the International Yoga Day on June 21. (AP)

June 19: Yoga televangelist Ramdev had proposed a "maha Kamraj" plan to revive the BJP in 2010, offering to merge his Bharat Swabhiman Andolan with it and jointly campaign for political and social change.

But his " kayakalp" or plan to transform the BJP was rejected by the RSS, according to a recently published book, Gurus - Stories of India's Leading Babas, by Bhavdeep Kang.

The author claims Ramdev had suggested setting up an eleven-member panel to restructure the BJP constitution. He had also mooted constituting a six-member committee, comprising two nominees each from the RSS, BJP and the Bharat Swabhiman Andolan, with senior BJP leader L.K. Advani to oversee a sort of "maha Kamraj" plan.

In 1963, K. Kamraj had resigned as chief minister of Tamil Nadu and urged several senior ministers in the Nehru cabinet to quit the government to work for the party.

According to Kang, who has worked as a political journalist with many newspapers and magazines, the RSS top brass discussed Ramdev's proposal at length when it met at Udupi in Karnataka in March 2011.

"A few weeks later, on 7 April 2011, RSS sarsanghchalak Mohanrao Bhagwat attended a function organised by Ramdev in Haridwar. After it was over, the two met in private and Bhagwat handed over a written note to Baba Ramdev suggesting he speak to the BJP directly. In effect, the RSS had rejected his proposal."

When Kang mentioned the episode, Ramdev responded perfunctorily: "Let it be. It is now an old story."

Kang says during her interactions, she found Ramdev to be shrewd, crafty and not quite above board. "He lacks the deviousness, the Machiavellian smarts to make a successful politician. Without a visionary at his elbow, to interpret the political terrain and draw a roadmap, he will remain a power broker," she writes.

From 2009 onwards, Ramdev was in direct communication with top BJP leaders, articulating a considerable degree of affinity with its perspectives and objectives.

"It occurred to him that instead of forging a new political instrument, the RSS could reshape the BJP to fulfil common objectives - eradication of corruption and black money, a rollback of neo-liberalism and neo-colonialism and national reconstruction through cultural consciousness," writes Kang, adding that Ramdev had given a 30-day time frame for his " kayakalp" plan to restructure the BJP and 90 days for a new constitution.

Even before the RSS snub, Ramdev's political ambitions had suffered a setback when his close aide, Rajiv Dixit, suddenly took ill and died on November 30, 2010, in Bhilai in Chhattisgarh. The cause of death, according to Patanjali sources, was a "cardiac arrest". But neither was a post-mortem done nor the media told of his passing.

The cremation was done by Ramdev and Rajiv's brother Pradeep. There are believed to have been uneasy murmurs among the late activist's associates.

Rajiv, a scientist, had worked abroad and returned to India in 1992 to launch an indigenous swadeshi movement called the Azadi Bachao Andolan. "It must, however, be noted that Baba Ramdev does not admit to being influenced by either Dixit or Arya Samaj; he insists that Dixit had learnt from him and not the other way round," Kang observes.

But in Kang's assessment, it was Dixit who had presented Ramdev with an accurate picture of the functioning of the Indian corporate sector and the working of black-money economy.

"Later when yogi (Ramdev) campaigned against the multinationals, corruption and black money, he echoed Dixit's discourses. Gradually, Ramdev learnt to speak with assurance about poverty and hunger and, with Dixit's encouragement, he acquired Aastha channel in Noida."

Kang claims Ramdev's business empire is worth over Rs 5,000 crore.