A few years ago, yoga guru Baba Ramdev launched the Bharat Swabhiman Trust with the hope of converting it into a political party. That did not happen. Instead, he decided to throw his weight behind the saffron Sangh Parivar, and campaigned for the Bharatiya Janata Party from his yoga shivir every morning. When Narendra Modi became prime minister, the yoga guru not only got an International Yoga Day, but also became the ambassador for a state like Haryana—whatever that means—was offered a cabinet status, got an honorary doctorate and so on.
Another interesting change was that all the whispers over a Scottish island and the financial nitty gritties of Baba's huge business empire were silenced. Now a good part of his daily yoga programme pertains to promotion of Patanjali products, the brand he owns and obsesses about. The range straddles food, confectionary, toiletries and, of course, ayurvedic medicines offering alternatives to products made by multinational companies like Hindustan Unilever and PepsiCo India.
Recently, when Nestle ran into trouble, there were unconfirmed reports that the invisible hands of the yoga guru were behind it. But he confirmed to a TV channel that he was seriously considering making healthy substitutes to instant noodles and would offer quick and ready to eat food in the near future. Make in India, was his slogan, long before last independence day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi first uttered those three words.
At an event in the national capital, it was sadly noted that most of the proposals for the Make in India programme pertained to jams and chutneys and the like, followed by software. Textiles and handicrafts came a poor and distant third. But even that was welcomed. Baba was elated, and so were many of his followers. From tooth pastes to face wash to tonics, he sold everything, totally desi. Possibly slightly cheaper than what MNCs charged for the same products.
But, recently, the political aspect of the Baba's commercial venture, was exposed. As was his commitment to promoting Make in India.
Patanjali Yogpeeth had signed an MoU with the Himachal Pradesh Horticultural Produce Marketing and Processing Corporation Ltd (HPMC), a state government undertaking, to buy apple concentrate and juice. From 2010 to 2012, Baba's company had to pay no more than a pittance for it. It was a package deal. Baba was also given permission by the previous BJP government under Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal to set up a herbal garden project in Solan district.
But when the BJP's political fortunes changed in the Himalayan state and the Congress came to power, the herbal garden project was scrapped. And HPMC wanted the rate of apple concentrate and juice to be revised. The angry Baba, who now carries political clout as well, will have none of this!
The Patanjali products that the yoga guru displays in his yoga camp as made in the Indian countryside, may not be 100 per cent so. The apple juice concentrate is not just from Jammu and Kashmir, but also from China! So, much for his Make in India promotion.