Senior BJP leader Smriti Zubin Irani's recent meeting with a Rajasthan astrologer sparked off a controversy, with many of her opponents criticising her for encouraging superstition while being the Human Resources Development Minister. She was lambasted for setting a wrong example for youngsters, who should be taught to respect hard work and nothing else as the recipe for success. However, Smriti is not the only politician or human who has sought the services of an astrologer.
There are innumerable examples of dignitaries and others seeking advice of these "Pandits" to know what the stars foretell in their respective cases. There are a number of people who believe in destiny and also are of the firm opinion that whatever happens is preordained. In all fairness, there is also a sizable section who rubbish the occult sciences and describe astrologers as soothsayers who occasionally assume the role of psychologists, or simply charlatans.
In fact, there could be some truth in both the statements. There is no dearth of people who go to them to seek some kind of comfort, while others encounter many of such species who falter in double tongue to quote Shakespeare.
In Irani's case, she had gone to Pandit Nathulal Vyas in Karoi village in Bhilwara to principally thank him. Vyas had told her before the elections that she was destined to become a minister even if she was to lose the polls. In the latest instance, he predicted many good things for her including the possibility of her becoming the President of the country in a not too distant future. Whether that happens or not, only time will tell. But Vyas has in the past been consulted by many top politicians and industrialists and they swear by his accuracy.
Almost all our politicians have this weakness for the prophecy makers. Narendra Modi was told in early 2001 by Pandit Kedar Sharma of Jaipur that he would become the Chief Minister of Gujarat on 7 October of the same year. The forecast was made in presence of the former Himachal CM Prem Kumar Dhumal, Jagdish Chander of ETV, Ranjan Bhattacharya and a couple of others. Sharma told Modi that he would be CM thrice — a hat-trick, a prediction which proved to be on dot. But by some accounts he was not of the opinion that he would subsequently also be India's Prime Minister. Sharma teaches in Jaipur's Aggarwal College and his clients included the late Pramod Mahajan, Vasundhara Raje, former President Pratibha Patil, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi and many more.
Indira Gandhi invariably would meet a motley of astrologers and also visited temples to seek the blessings of deities; besides this she would also go to different dargahs. The story goes that amongst the many astrologers she consulted, there was one from Kerala named Nimboodri. She had immense faith in him and summoned him at the time when Rajiv Gandhi was courting Sonia in the late 1960s. Being a single mother, Indira was not sure whether an alliance with a foreigner was ideal and wanted her elder son to get married to an Indian, preferably a Kashmiri Pandit. However, Nimboodri told her categorically that Rajiv was deeply in love with his foreign girlfriend and if she did not endorse their relationship, he would get married to her in any case and not return to India. Indira happened to speak to Rajiv the same evening and she discovered that he was determined to get married to Sonia and would settle abroad if she held back her approval. She thus gave her blessings to both and asked them to come to India so that she could solemnise their wedding as per traditional customs and law here. Interestingly, Nimboodri also predicted Rajiv's death in May 1991, one of the very few astrologers to get it right. The other two were Bharat Upmanyu, better known as Rajesh Khanna's astrologer and former police officer C.B. Sathpathy. There were two Pune-based astrologers — Indoomati Pandit and Ajanta Jain, who wrote in 1953 a book of predictions known as India's Nostradamus. They had accurately predicted the death of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964, Indira's assassination in 1984, the disintegration of Soviet Union, rise of fundamentalist forces in India "who would want to turn the Clock back" and trouble in the border states of Punjab and Kashmir. They had also accurately told Congress leader Ram Lal, when he was out of power in 1977, that he would become the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh once again.
Amitabh Bacchhan and Amar Singh at one stage consulted Pandit Chander Moily Upadhyaya of Banares Hindu University and some of the top politicians would secretly visit the Delhi residence of Lachman Das Madan who used to take out an astrology magazine by the name of Babaji. Some astrologers have concluded that Priyanka Vadra's good time begins in 2017, but whether there will be acche din for her again, time alone will tell. Between us.