IN THE MIDDLE OF AUGUST, as Anna Hazare exited stage left, Baba Ramdev finally stepped to the centre of the clangorous anti-corruption campaign. The made-for-television concerns of the day remained the same—systemic graft, black money—but the threats were sharper, and noticeably more political. The Centre is formed of a coalition of parties with disparate and unclear agendas, but Ramdev singled out the United Progressive Alliance’s biggest slice. “We will now go from village to village telling them maybe Congress people own this black money and so they do not want to declare it a national asset.”
Until at least 2008, Ramdev held back from revealing a political leaning. He restricted himself to issuing social remedies: calling for the ban of allopathic medicine, promoting yoga as a cure for AIDS and advising the export of “surplus population”. Politically he traded in pablum, proposing to clear the system of “deadwood”.
So on 13 August, when Ramdev courted arrest by marching to Parliament, a businessman in Dubai had reason to watch him with interest on television. Kirit C Mehta, who at one time had an amicable relationship with Ramdev, parted ways with him wishing they had never met. Which explains why he now lives at a safe enough distance to observe his tormentor closely. “I know exactly what his role in politics is going to be,” Mehta told me of Ramdev. “I challenged him on Twitter, saying he’s not going to start his own political party. He’s talking about these things today, openly. His true colours are coming out now. But I’ve known these things for two years, two-and-a-half years.” He keeps a file on Ramdev, reading practically everything printed about him—even going so far as remembering mistakes in articles.