He learnt the value of pranayam when it cured him of the disabling effects of a paralytic stroke he got as a child. His faith in curative nature of yoga enhanced, Ramdev defined 'swasthya swavalamban' — self-reliance in health as the centrepiece of his worldview. He says only a healthy body with a healthy mind can lead to a healthy society and nation.
But what is Ramdev's politics? Does he have an economic vision? He is a swadeshi zealot — calling him a votary would be gross understatement. An uber social conservative, he harangues foreign medicine and culture, froths at liberal views on homosexuality. At one of his congregations in Haridwar some time back, he invited a scrum of journalists to speak to a largely rural audience of around a couple of thousands in Hindi. He insists on spelling yoga as 'yog' because that's how it is pronounced.
The baba eats fruit and vegetables, drinks a lot of juice, and is lean, without a sliver of fat on his body. An
engaging conversationalist, he sizes up his interlocutor with something approximating intuition. And he has a good memory.
Ramdev, unlike politicians, appears to the folk as someone strongly attached to what he feels and thinks: A man of convictions, a contrast with politicians. His ochre robe — saffron is worshipped in the heartland — make it difficult for politicians to spit at him and run, usually a safe political tactic.
But the baba, who owns a Scottish island at Cumbrae thanks to his NRI bhakta couple Sam and Sunita Poddar who bought it for two million pounds, has a savvy business side to him. While he recently said the turnover of his enterprises is around Rs 1,100 crore, sources close to him placed the worth of his entire business empire at Rs 15,000 crore.
Ramdev is the face of a multi-crore healing business in Haridwar which includes a 300-bed multi-speciality hospital, a Yoga Research Centre known as Patanjali Yogpeeth, a university, and an ayurvedic pharmacy. He is also associated with a food park known as Padarth and Yog Gram. Ramdev recently began another massive project known as Patanjali .