It was not that long back that Baba Ramdev, a Yadav from Haryana, was just a superior yoga instructor with a mass following, a people's Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, whose clientele was at the upper end of the social spectrum.
Today, Baba Ramdev heads a yoga and health empire, worth hundreds of crores, with even an island off the coast of Scotland, gifted to him by grateful devotees, to run a yoga ashram and a spa. He swishes around in chartered private planes — and, significantly, has a team of advisers with impressive credentials.
First, there is Acharya Balakrishna, who is credited with marketing his yogic skills and creating an empire — government sources allege that the Acharya is the proud possessor of three passports. Then there is the Lok Ayukta of Punjab and Haryana, Justice Pritam Pal, who has shared the stage with him and who, along with journalist Devinder Sharma – an anti-GM proponent of organic agriculture -- were with him, when he met the four Cabinet Ministers at the airport earlier this week.
Then there is former Intelligence Bureau chief Ajit Doval and veteran journalist Ved Prakash Vaidik, who has close connections with the RSS family. Then there is S Gurumurthy, a chartered accountant by training and RSS person by ideology, who was once a close aide of the newspaper magnate, the late Ramnath Goenka. And the “remote control” is with K.Govindacharya, who in the late 1980s and early 1990s was a key BJP functionary and senior ideologue of the party, and played a critical behind the scenes role in the formation of the V.P. Singh government in 1989. Of late, he has been in close touch with his old mentor, L.K. Advani, and it is Mr. Govindacharya's Bharat Swabhiman Trust along with the RSS that has played a major role in mobilising people for his camp.