In the sweltering 45 degrees of a June Sunday, much of Delhi skipped a Baba Ramdev call to come out and join a rally against black money. Attendance would possibly have been more if the Baba had promised a yoga lesson.
But for some time now, the battle against black money has been more Baba Ramdev's pet cause than even evangelising yoga. And towards that, Baba Ramdev, having realised that railing against politicos was not quite helping, is now seeking to meet political leaders and talk them into supporting his campaign. He has the BJP's avowed support after that party's president Nitin Gadkari touched the Baba's feet and promised all help.
The yogi says he has also sought an appointment with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
For the last one year, he has attempted to attach his bandwagon to the Anna Hazare corruption campaign. Team Anna blows hot and blows cold with Baba Ramdev - there have been occasions when one or more members have publically distanced themselves, and then days like Sunday when Gandhian Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev shared stage to fast in Delhi.
Team Anna's decided queasiness about the association could stem from the fact that the yoga icon's different trusts are being investigated for violating foreign exchange and income tax guidelines; Baba Ramdev has said this is the government's way of punishing him for his campaign against corruption and black money.
Before the 46-year-old swami became the latest crusader against corruption, he was best known for his efforts to popularise yoga among increasingly health conscious Indians. He is largely a television and video phenomenon. He fired the imagination of an entire segment of TV watchers, who tuned out of daily soap opera to tune into and do yoga with Baba Ramdev. Now, thousands turn up at his camps to do mass yoga with him.
Baba Ramdev moved from morning slots to prime time news one midnight in June 2011 when the Delhi Police swooped down on Ramlila Maidan where he was holding a rally against corruption. The administration says Ramdev had permission only for a mass yoga camp with 5000 in attendance. But there were about 50,000 people gathered at the venue. Many supporters of the yoga teacher were injured in clashes with the police - one, a woman, died in hospital later. Baba Ramdev escaped incognito. He surfaced hours later at his Hardwar ashram dressed in a woman's salwar kameez
A wiry man with a full flowing black beard, hair parted and tied back, in red robes, the abiding vision of Ramdev is of a man demonstrating very difficult yoga asanas. He has a considerable following and people flock to his institutes in Haridwar, near Dehradun. The yoga guru claims to cure many ailments through yoga and ayurveda
and has courted controversy with his claims of curing AIDS and cancer with yoga, though he later clarified that he had only said yoga helped provide relief to those with AIDS.
As his popularity grew in the era of multiple television channels, Ramdev found not just celebrity, but political ambition too. In 2010 he announced that he would launch a new political party - the Bharat Swabhiman - to "cleanse the system." Ramdev said that he would not contest elections but that his party would contest all 543 Lok Sabha seats in the next elections on a manifesto that shall address black money and corruption as the key issues. He insists though that his black money campaign is anything but political.
Baba Ramdev was born in 1965 in a Haryana village called Alipur. He was named Ramkishan Yadav. Various biographies say Ramkishan attended school till class 8 and then joined a gurukul
where he learnt Sanskrit and Yoga.
He later became a sanyasi (one who renounces the world) and took the name Baba Ramdev and began to teach yoga. He later moved to Haridwar, where he continued to offer free yoga lessons. His followers claim he has studied the Hindu scriptures deeply and even taught them in various gurukuls
Baba Ramdev muscled his way into India's consciousness in 1995 when his mass yoga sessions started being televised. He used his classes to preach against corruption in the system, and occasionally to promote a swadeshi
ideology that was welcomed by saffron groups. He has set up several trusts, gurukuls
and foundations and conducts yoga camps and classes throughout the world. He is known for his focus on pranayama
, the ancient breathing exercises that are a fundamental part of yoga.