ROCK STARS HAVE OFTEN MADE a significant impact on society. Whether it was the explosion of drug use in the 1960s and the 1970s, influenced by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Jim Morrison, or new fashion trends such as mop-top hairstyles and collarless jackets popularised by The Beatles, or a greater awareness of social and economic issues, such as through the pioneering efforts of U2’s lead vocalist Bono in championing the UN’s Millennium Development Goals—many rock stars have, for better or for worse, been agents of social and cultural change.
So when, on 31 May, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari proclaimed Baba Ramdev to be the “rock star of yoga”, it seemed an apt honorific for one who not only amassed a huge fan following in India and abroad, but even changed the very face of yoga with his telecasts and live sessions. But rock stars are also known to be brash and arrogant. Some of them fly high, intoxicated with their culthood, detached from pragmatism—only to crash and burn, taking their friends and associates down with them. Few could have predicted that the “rock star of yoga” would follow this pattern so faithfully.
When Baba Ramdev plunged into the anti-corruption movement, there were three major players in the arena—the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, the Jan Lokpal Bill movement led by Anna Hazare, and the opposition parties, primarily the BJP. In the two weeks after Gadkari’s remark, Ramdev shrewdly engineered a political maelstrom with himself at the centre, playing on the fears, temptations and sheer opportunism of those on—and off—his bandwagon.