The battle for the Indira Nagar Constituency in Puducherry seems to have taken on divine proportions. Apart from the normal political campaigning, the two main candidates — All India NR Congress' candidate and Chief Minister N Rangasamy and Congress candidate V Aroumougam — have been spending precious pre-election time performing a number of rituals to ensure their victory.
In the run-up to the elections, neither Rangasamy nor anyone from his party held any formal talks with other parties, and made no announcements. Instead, through March-April, Rangasamy visited a series of temples and performed several pujas, culminating in a series of 21 yaagas in one night, before he announced his preliminary list of candidates.
Aroumougam, on the other hand, performed ashwamedhayaaga, riding his horse around the constituency for 108 consecutive days to ensure his victory. “The ashwamedhayaaga was performed by kings earlier to mark the extent of their territory. I am performing this yaaga so that I will be successful, and also so that I can defeat Rangasamy,” he said.
It is common knowledge in Puducherry that Rangasamy believes in divine intervention. “This is not unusual for Rangasamy,” a party member said. “In fact, what is unusual is that he has cancelled a trip to Malaysia to visit the Murugan temple there, and a couple of other pilgrimages,” he added. It is impossible to see Rangasamy start any new venture at an inauspicious time, and he constantly checks his watch before signing an important document.
According to a friend from his school days, the religiously-inclined politician visited his guru, Appa Paithiya Swamy, as often as possible while growing up. Appa Paithiya Swamy, himself, was an unusual saint. A chain smoker, he would curse people who visited him. “Now, whenever Rangasamy is offering prayers, he takes a puff of a cigarette, places it on the lips of the idol, and then speaks. He believes that Appa Paithiya Swamy is offering him advice,” the friend added. The Chief Minister even built a temple dedicated to him in Puducherry, and regularly serves food to people there.
Although Puducherry politicians have extreme religious inclinations, religion and superstitions play a huge role in both Tamil Nadu and Puducherry politics.
The most prominent example is that of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's. She is often seen in either a green or a maroon saree, and people close to her say she believes that these two colours help her. “For all important events, like her swearing in, and court appearances, she wears her green saree. She is also very particular about time, and follows her astrologer’s advice every step of the way,” AIADMK sources say.
On her way to court or the airport, she always stops at the small Varasiddhi Vinayagar temple near Kotturpuram bridge, and the temple priests offer prayers in the sanctum sanctorum as she passes by. “Jayalalithaa makes it a point to visit a number of temples, and even visited the Mahamaham in Trichy (in 1992),” sources said. During this visit, her presence caused a stampede which took 50 lives and injured 74 — following which she never went back to the festival.
According to sources, Vijayakanth, leader of the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam(DMDK), and Chief Ministerial candidate for the People’s Welfare Front (PWF), too, depends on a little support from the gods. In the past three elections, he has stood in three different constituencies in the South Arcot region: Vriddhachalam, Rishivandiyam and now in Ulundurpet. “Vijayakanth believes in temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, and he looks for temples where the deities’ names end with ‘Ri’,” sources say. Rishivandiyam and Ilavanasur (in Ulundurpet), both have Ardhanariswarar temples, while Vriddhachalam has the Vriddhagiri temple.
“Even though he stands in the South Arcot region due to his huge fan base there, he makes it a point to choose a constituency with a temple that will be favourable to him,” he said.
Even the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), known for its atheist ideology, has relaxed its rules a bit. According to party sources, many cadres are religious, and offer prayers for the party’s victory. Recently, DMK leader MK Stalin’s visit to an ancient Vaishnavite temple raised some eyebrows. He visited the Sowmya Narayanaswamy temple in Tirukoshtiyur in Ramanathapuram district along with his wife, Durga. This temple is believed to be the place where the Vaishnavite saint Ramanujar revealed a secret mantra to the people of the village.
“Karunanidhi even scripted a serial on Ramanujar that is being telecast on Kalaignar TV. The family believes in the message of equality delivered by the saint, which is why they have chosen to patronise him,” a senior DMK member said.
Whether party head M Karunanidhi is actually a believer or not, one cannot miss the yellow towel draped around his shoulders. “Karunanidhi will never leave his house without the yellow towel around his shoulders, which he believes is his good luck charm,” the party member added.
Updated Date: May 18, 2016 17:55 PM