Alwar contest embodies Baba Ramdev's struggle

Alwar contest embodies Baba Ramdev's struggle

 Snubbed obliquely by the Election Commission (EC) for holding surrogate yoga camps, Baba Ramdev’s political fondness for the BJP is as widely known as his fitness “asanas”.

The bare-chested guru, who has openly lent his support to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s fight for the position of prime minister, is believed to have successfully pushed a handful of his candidates to contest on BJP tickets, realising that their win would give him leverage to bargain with the saffron party.

At least two Lok Sabha contestants—Mahant Chandnath and Swami Sumedhanand—owe their tickets from Alwar and Sikar, respectively, to Ramdev, said state party sources.

A couple of days ago, Ramdev held a press conference in support of Chandnath, pitched against sitting Congress MP and Union minister Jitendra Singh from Alwar. The Baba, however, was sucked into a controversy when the BJP candidate was caught on camera whispering in his ear about paucity of funds.

That matter is now under the EC's scanner, following a complaint by the Congress on the use of dubious electoral funding. Without naming him, the EC has also directed returning officers not to give permission for yoga camps if it is obvious that they would end up as political events.

The city is still staring at large hoarding of Baba Ramdev and BJP candidate Chandnath. Local BJP leaders accept that his followers, who number quite a few in this eastern belt of Rajasthan, have been reaching out to people in favour of the BJP candidate.

Seer-turned-politician Satpal Maharaj, the Congress leader from Uttarakhand who recently joined the BJP, had also participated in a public rally on Friday in support of Chandnath. That meeting saw sizeable participation from Ramdev’s followers, easily spotted by their Patanjali Yogpeeth Ashram scarves and badges.

Interestingly, Chandnath and Sumedhanand are “sadhus” and belong to Haryana—threads common to Ramdev. The yoga guru and staunch Ayurvedic medicines practitioner was born in Alipur village of Mahendragarh district in Haryana. While Arya Samaj leader Swami Sumedhanand is a first-timer in electoral politics, Chandnath, a representative of Rohtak's Baba Mastnath Mutt, was once an MLA from Bahrod. He had, however, lost the parliamentary poll bout from Alwar.

Earlier this month, Ramdev had also held a camp at Nawanshahr in Punjab, perceived as an implicit attempt to campaign for NDA ally Shiromani Akali Dal. He had floated Bharat Swabhiman Sansthan in 2010 to directly launch candidates in polls, but had developed cold feet.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox