'How do we know Baba himself is clean?'
A kind of politics of fear has crept into the whole drama surrounding yoga guru Baba Ramdev's threat of going on an indefinite fast from Saturday principally against black money stashed abroad, reports Sahim Salim.
Probably learning a lesson after being caught on the back foot when veteran social activist Anna Hazare launched his anti-corruption campaign, the government is going out of its way to appease the controversial Baba.
Multiple committees have been constituted to look into Baba's allegations and several high-level meetings have taken place so as to stop the yoga guru from going on his hunger strike.
"Who is Baba Ramdev, then?" Former guru, Swami Balendu, had in an open letter to Baba Ramdev, asked him this very question. He asked him to explain who he was -- a sanyasi, a yoga teacher, a businessman or a politician?
Quoting a report, the former guru had pegged Baba Ramdev's empire to be worth "at least Rs 11.52 billion (Rs 1,152 crore)".
Why is Baba Ramdev's threat of going on a self proclaimed satyagraha sending down jitters in the government's spine? The very same leaders, who had criticised the Baba weeks ago, are guarded when they talk about him now.
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Image: Yoga guru Baba Ramdev
'Nature of donations Baba receives has to be probed'
Perhaps, a comment by Uttarakhand Congress MLA Kishore Updhyaya best describes his dizzying rise.
"Just years ago, he had just one bicycle. Today, the man has crores of rupees. Where did they originate from? It has to be investigated," Upadhyaya told rediff.com.
The baba, who claims to have solutions for everything -- from AIDS to cancer to the 'disease' called homosexuality -- allegedly received crores in the form of donations. And the nature of these donations has been questioned by several leaders.
"Yes, these allegations definitely have to be investigated. Over time, he has accumulated acres of land. And what about the quantity of the medicines he produces? I don't think there are enough rocks in the Himalayas to produce the number of medicines he does and I don't think the cows drink enough water to produce the quantity of goumutra he uses in his medicines" said Upadhyaya.
Upadhyaya said that if Baba Ramdev was so concerned about corruption, he 'should start his fight in the state which made him what he is today -- Uttarakhand.'
Image: Baba Ramdev speaks duirng a yoga camp in Haridwar
'Baba hand-in-glove with corrupt BJP-ruled Uttarakhand govt'
"It is a known fact that the level of corruption in Uttarakhand is massive. Yet, he enjoys full backing from the Bharatiya Janata Party led-government. We are all against corruption, but you can't be hand-in glove-with a corrupt government and fight against corruption. He is fighting against black money. I don't know whether the donations he has received is black or white, but he definitely has to explain what he has and how he acquired it," said Upadhyaya.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist had, some time back, taken the Baba head on. The party's politburo member Brinda Karat had been vocal against Baba Ramdev, leveling allegations of labour laws violation and had also criticised the BJP (which rules Uttarakhand) of covering up his crimes. She had also charged him with using animal and human remains in his medicines.
Image: Baba Ramdev with senior BJP leader L K Advani and spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in a function in Bhopal
'He enjoys influence in political circles'
On Thursday, however, she refused to answer any questions rediff.com posed to her. She only had one thing to say, "I don't have much talk about in this matter."
Why this fear all of a sudden? Rediff.com managed to speak to one CPI-M leader, who did not wish to be named.
"When we had taken on Baba Ramdev, it proved to be a lone battle. He enjoys influence in political circles. He has the biggest names from the Indian politics as his followers and we had become isolated when we raised our voice against him. He enjoys full backing from the BJP in Uttarakhand," said the leader.
Congress MP P L Punia had also attacked Baba Ramdev recently when he alleged that Baba himself has a lot of black money. Today, with the party leadership trying to dissuade Baba from going on his hunger strike, Punia has toned down a little.
Image: Baba Ramdev gestures during his yoga camp in New York
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
'Govt is not trying to appease him'
"See, my point is that the origin of his money should be examined as well. He is fighting to retrieve black money, but there are allegations of him using black money to expand his yoga empire, which should be investigated. He talks about equality, but have you seen his sessions? The businessmen who give him the maximum donation are honoured and given space to practice along with him on the stage," said Punia.
When asked why the central government is so keen on appeasing him, Punia said, "The government is not trying to appease him. We are telling him that we are all working in the same direction -- to ensure a corruption free India. He does not have to indulge in unnecessary practices like hunger strike to eradicate corruption; he can work with the government to eradicate it."
Image: Supporters of Baba Ramdev carry his portrait before raising it in the Ramlila grounds, the venue of his indefinite fast, in New Delhi
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters