Yoga guru Ramdev turned down on Tuesday the status of a cabinet minister offered to him by the BJP-ruled Haryana government, saying he would rather remain a “fakir” than get drawn into politics.
The Manohar Lal Khattar government announced the upgrade of Ramdev’s status last week, about three months after the controversial yoga teacher, who campaigned for the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, was named the state’s brand ambassador to promote yoga and ayurveda.
“For your decision to bestow me with this honour, I thank you (the Haryana government) profusely, but I want to humbly state that I want to serve you by remaining a baba and a fakir,” Ramdev said at a grand ceremony organised by the state government to honour him. “I want to thank you for what you have given me but very respectfully I want to hand it back to you.”
Watch: Baba Ramdev declines Haryana govt's offer of cabinet status, says he is a yogi
Ramdev said he had worked selflessly to realise the mission of making Narendra Modi the country's prime minister by treating it as “rashtra dharma”.
"Now, that the PM is ours, the entire Cabinet is ours, the Haryana CM is ours and his Cabinet is ours, so let baba remain a baba ... I want to serve you like this only (by remaining a baba),” he said. “Service to humanity is my only objective; I'm not looking for any ministerial position or status.”
The status of a cabinet minister did not entitle Ramdev to the salary and allowances payable to a legislator sworn in to that position, but it would have given him got other perks, including a security escort and state guest status at official rest houses.
Ramdev, who leapt into the limelight with his brand of televised yoga and a multi-crore business empire selling ayurvedic products, is no stranger to controversy. His appointment as Haryana’s brand ambassador sparked angry reactions in the state assembly, with the Congress saying the BJP government was going out of its way to please him.
Critics accuse the ruling BJP of pursuing a saffronisation programme in the state with its moves to push the Bhagwad Gita in schools, teach yoga and ban cow slaughter while allowing right-wing representatives like Ramdev and RSS ideologue Dinanath Batra to set the agenda.
Ramdev had faced flak for his views on homosexuality, which he describes as a curable mental illness, but his attempts to champion a fight against black money and a movement to promote Hindu heritage have seen massive support.
(With agency inputs)