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Well Known Yogi in India Attempts to Parlay His Popularity into Politics

Posted Apr 21 2010 11:18pm

It may seem a little far fetched, but it’s actually true. A well known yogi with a huge following in northern India, Swami Ramdev wants to start a political party. According to a story in the New York Times, Swami Ramdev plans to whip the political system into shape in the same way that he has the health of this devoted following. He announced last month that he would found a political party that would field candidates for each of the 543 parliamentary seats in India’s next general election in 2014.

“What the people need is honest, brave and responsible leadership,” he said in an interview at the sprawling campus of his rapidly expanding yoga, natural foods and medicine empire in northern India. The country’s political system is riddled with corruption and riven by the deep divisions of religion and caste, he said. Tapping into the ancient Indian wisdom that gave birth to yoga, and the holy texts like the Vedas and Upanishads, is the only way to excise those cancers, he contended.

He doesn’t actually plan to run for office himself, he plans to put candidates up through his newly established political party. Ramdev’s political party centers around a nationalistic perspective that rejects the multinational corporations that are currently taking over his country and instead, advocates for the revival of Indian culture. He wants his nation to become self reliant again.

“The British didn’t make policies to make the country stronger,” he said. “They made them to extract the maximum resources from the country. He wants his fellow Indians to be Indian, speak Indian languages, wear Indian clothes, and drink Indian drinks.

All things foreign, he argues, like Coca-Cola and hamburgers, pollute the Indian spirit and weaken it. The World Health Organization is a favorite target: it is, he says, “a big conspiracy” cooked up by American pharmaceutical companies.

While I definitely agree that many of the multinational corporations like Coke, McDonalds, and KFC are taking a bite out of cultures worldwide, it frightens me a bit that a yogic figure such as Swami Ramdev would let all the kindness he has created through his teachings be polluted by the likes of politics. Politics is a dirty game no matter how you slice it and running a political party could be even dirtier. Maybe it would do a lot of good for India. Yoga has transformed my life, why couldn’t it transform the government? But I would be lying if I said that it didn’t make me a bit uneasy.

“Ramdev is a successful yogi, but politics will puncture him,” said Sri Nityanand Puri. “God has given him some gifts, but his ego will finish him. The hurly-burly of politics is no place for holy men,” he said.

Ramdev is well known for the creation of the Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust. Located outside of Haridwar, he has a hospital and an ayurvedic medical school and research institution. Additionally, he controls an enormous agricultural and processing operation that produces all sorts of natural products.

More on Yoga:
Stay Inspired: Keep Your Yoga Classes and Your Own Practice Fresh
Draw Potential Yoga Students With a Monthly Studio Newsletter: 5 Ideas for Gaining Readership
New Study: “Things” Don’t Matter, Materialistic People Aren’t Happy Anyway

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