'The BJP must project Modi if it wants to win power'
Baba Ramdev is one of India most well-known yoga gurus and most controversial figures. His yoga camps attract tens of thousands of people and thanks to television he has millions of followers around the world. Ramdev has built not only a reputation for but also a yoga empire with is reportedly worth Rs 2,500 crore.
But in recent years he has become well known for his political activism. He remains in the news as much for his yoga as for his sweeping, controversial pronouncements. He has become a fierce critic of the governing Congress party and its stalwarts like Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi. He has launched his own political party, Bharat Swabhiman, though he has made it clear that will never directly contest elections. His aim is to change what he calls India's 'rotten political system'.
He spoke to Haresh Pandya in Rajkot, Gujarat, where he recently held a one-day yoga camp, which was attended by nearly 50,000 women and men.
A lot has happened in India on the political front since the last general elections in 2009. The next parliamentary elections are around the corner. Which political party or alliance do you think has a better chance of coming to power?
Most political parties have disappointed in recent times. But I am certain that the Congress will suffer its worst ever defeat in the 2014 elections. It has become an anti-national party and will die of its own sins. Its leaders, particularly the Gandhis, are involved in corruption, which is the bane of this great country.
Sonia Gandhi, the daughter-in-law of this country, is looting India for Italy. Rajiv Gandhi's name figured prominently in the Bofors scandal. Their son-in-law Robert Vadra is also involved in large-scale corruption in real estate dealings. We know now, thanks to WikiLeaks, that Indira Gandhi offered to share nuclear technology with Pakistan.
Rahul Gandhi is being touted as the next prime minister of India. Do you think he can lead this country?
Everybody knows why he is being promoted. His only qualification is that he belongs to the Gandhi family. He has neither vision nor leadership qualities. He is still a baby, who is very confused. He doesn't say anything on important issues. And when he does, he himself doesn't understand what he is saying.
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Image: Yoga guru Baba Ramdev
'I'll ensure that Congress is wiped out in the next general elections'
Manmohan Singh has also thrown his hat in the ring by hinting that he is willing to become the prime minister for the third consecutive term. What is your take on this?
The question of Rahul Gandhi or Manmohan Singh becoming the prime minister just doesn't arise simply because the Congress is going to be sent packing in the forthcoming elections. Singh, who is in charge of a sinking ship, is increasingly proving ineffective. He is surrounded by corrupt, dishonest people.
All the massive scams Commonwealth Games, Coal-gate, 2G spectrum and the great thorium robbery have taken place under his nose. Yet, he is unable to take actions. One who can't give good governance has no right to be in power. Singh may be an eminent economist, he may be an honest man, but he has let the nation down. He has failed to take the issues of corruption and black money to a logical conclusion.
You call yourself a 'non-political man' but you seem to have a strong dislike for Congress and its leaders. Why is it so?
I have nothing personally against Congress and its leaders. I am against its policies and its leaders' habits of misusing powers. They are misusing the Central Bureau of Investigation, not only against their political rivals but also against those who try to expose their scams. No one knows this better than me. I am the only fakir against whom two CBI inquiries are being held (for alleged tax evasion).
Do you aspire to contest elections? How do you plan to cleanse the political system?
I have repeatedly said that I don't wish to contest elections. I want to see a corruption-free India and I will ensure that the Congress is wiped out in the next general elections. I myself will work towards defeating its top leadership because I consider it my national duty to rid the country of the corrupt leaders.
All preparations are made. Building up political pressure along with social pressure is necessary to change the system. I see that the people of India have awakened from their slumber. They are disillusioned by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, which has made life more miserable for the poor. It has lost the trust of the masses, who are feeling cheated and betrayed.
I strongly believe that an ideal political ideology should be established in India to cleanse the political system. Trustworthy leaders will have to come forward and take initiative in creating such an ideology.
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Photographs: Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com
'Modi most deserving man to be next prime minister of India'
There has been so much talk about Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who represents the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, being the likely man to be the next prime minister of India. Do you think he is fit for the job?
He is the most deserving man to be the next prime minister of India. He is the most popular and trustworthy leader in the country. He has shown a ray of hope to the Indians amid an atmosphere of gloom and no-hope.
The country has hopes and aspirations from him. He is endowed with leadership qualities and has a clear vision. No one can deny or ignore the development that has taken place in Gujarat under his astute leadership. India is facing a crisis of leadership and it is due to dynamic individuals like Modi that people are looking to bring about a positive change, which is the need of the hour.
But names of Lal Krishna Advani and Sushma Swaraj, among several others, are also bandied about as the likely prime ministerial candidates. Doesn't it mean the BJP leadership is still unsure in this matter?
I think Advani should give his blessings to Modi as his party's most senior leader and Swaraj should wish him well as a sister! The BJP must project Modi as its leader in the upcoming parliamentary elections if it wants to return to power. There isn't a better leader, neither in the BJP nor in the National Democratic Alliance.
He is a man of courage and convictions and an icon of development. I know the Congress leaders have been spreading all sorts of canards about him and trying to tarnish his image. But they can't fool the people, who know the truth.
Not long ago, you had plunged into the movement led by Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and company. Now both Hazare and Kejriwal have separated, protesting against corruption and other ills in their own ways. Would you like to say something in this regard?
I have decided not to give my opinion or express my views on Hazare and Kejriwal for some time. Sorry.
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'Gujarat will again provide leadership to India'
The issue of constructing the Ram temple in Ayodhya keeps surfacing in the saffron party's agenda, whenever the parliamentary elections approach. But, considering all factors, can or will the Ram temple ever be built?
I don't want to make any comment on the issue. It is enough for me that I am a devotee of both Lord Ram and Lord Krishna.
Will the burning issue of Kashmir ever be resolved?
Had Vallabbhai Patel been made the prime minister of independent India, instead of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Kashmir problem would not have occurred in the first place. I would go as far as saying that if Patel had been the prime minister, India would have been more powerful than the United States today.
Gujarat has always provided leadership to the country in an hour of crisis. Both Patel and Mahatma Gandhi hailed from Gujarat and led India's successful independence movement. I am confident that Gujarat will again provide leadership to India.
Image: Protestors and police clash in Kashmir
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com