30 Dec 2016 12:41 IST

Baba Ramdev: The social media sanyasi

From yoga sutras to social sutras, the guru has mastered them all

Few can match the posture perfect Baba Ramdev when it comes to yoga prowess. Agile, lithe and flexible, Ramdev has attained a cult following through his yoga classes. But the proponent of Patanjali’s yoga sutras can teach others a trick or two on social media management too.

With 644,000 followers on Twitter, 7,706,728 likes for his Facebook page and an active presence on Instagram and Pinterest, the gregarious Ramdev, who is always willing to pose for selfies, is a very “social sanyasi”, as he himself points out. So is it any surprise that thousands attending the yuva shivir (youth camp) at Patanjali Yogpeeth in Hardiwar get a taste of Ramdev’s social sutras at his satsang? Before the guru takes the stage, one of his disciples addresses the gathering. How many of you have smartphones? he questions. How many have mobile internet and are on Facebook and WhatsApp? Only half the crowd raises its hands.

Teaching social media

So then begins a tutorial on how to use social media. He exhorts everyone to get on to mobile internet and follow Swami Ramdev’s Facebook page, slowly enunciating the web page link and adding that they can look it up on the pamphlets distributed. “Mobile internet packs are very cheap today. And using social media is as easy as a television remote,” he says.

“Today, thanks to social media we can give our own news and information,” he tells the gathering, pointing out how a lot of ‘distorted’ reports on the Baba are in circulation. “I humbly request you all to start liking Swami Ramdev’s page and also make sure you add people who are not part of the movement to the social network as well,” he says.

By now Baba Ramdev has arrived, security guards in tow, and ascends the stage. The two-and-a-half hour long satsang is highly interactive, laced with catchy slogans, bhajans and free-flowing discourse.

Versatile speaker

From health and spiritual well-being to nation building and sustainable practices (‘suraj has no bill, use its energy rather than electricity’) to demonetisation (paisa versus punya), Ramdev speaks on a range of topics. But he smoothly slips in stuff on social media too.

He points out to recent WhatsApp posts and pictures of him being hospitalised and tells the crowd not to get swayed by irresponsible stuff on social media. " Jisko bukhaar hi kabhi nahi hota, usko heart attack kaise hoga (how can a person who never gets sick get a heart-attack?),” he queries, gently slipping in a message to follow the information on his page.

Later, as we meet Baba Ramdev at his home — Sant Kutir — a beautiful retreat set in a sylvan garden, he tells us that social media is a powerful channel for him to communicate health advice and give an impetus to his ‘nation-building movement’. “Social media is communication straight from the soul,” says Ramdev.