Friday, August 31, 2012

‘Table for Two: In conversation with power, fame and glory’ – Business Standard

Swami Ramdev
"However radical his thoughts may sound, Ramdev oozes confidence. This is because he thinks he has the numbers all worked out. About 30 million, says he, have attended his yoga camps. Each of them goes back to a family of five to seven. So, that's at least 150 million votes. He is also on television round the clock. That, claims Ramdev, gives him viewership of 1 billion! Then there are the latent supporters, says he. 'Even evil idolises truth. Ravan's brothers wanted Ram to win. A philanderer doesn't want his kids to follow in his footsteps.''
"He also has a huge fan-following among Muslims. 'I am the only saffron-clad accepted by Muslims,' says he. Muslims, Ramdev has said, can recite verses from the Koran while doing yoga. Ramdev says he has thought of a name for his party but will not disclose it to me. He will not contest elections. He wants to have an organisation of up to a million people in each district, and aspires for power at the Centre, not in the states, because that's where real power lies.'
"Is there a role for private enterprise in Ramdev's world view? Definitely, says he, but the government needs to fix prices of all goods and services and, thereby, control profits! He says he knows most large businessmen and what kind of obscene money companies make.'
"Ramdev himself runs a business of no small proportions. This includes hospitals, the media and herbal products. He sells medicine worth Rs 25 crore every month; sale of his books and CDs fetch Rs 2 to 3 crore. He has set up a food park near Hardwar with an investment of Rs 500 crore. All told, Ramdev provides employment to 13,000 people. 'What are your profit margins,' I ask. Sixteen per cent, says Ramdev, but quickly adds that his operating costs and retail margins are way below others and that's why his products are priced on an average 50 per cent below rivals.'
"'But you must be a rich man,' I tell Ramdev. 'Haven't you bought an island off the Scottish coast.' The island of 700 acres, Ramdev counters, was a gift from the Poddars of Glasgow (Mr Poddar is from Bihar, Mrs Poddar from Nepal). Somebody has even gifted him 95 acres near Houston. Then there's something similar in Canada. Individuals have also contributed towards the Rs 500-crore food park."
(pp. 184-5, 'Table for Two: In conversation with power, fame and glory' – Business Standard - Landmark)

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