The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Digvijay temple-hop spree turns south

New Delhi, Oct. 14: Madhya Pradesh may have just become too small for two big-time political rivals to go temple hopping.

Chief minister Digvijay Singh has headed south after apparently exhausting temples at home, in a race with the BJP rival for his chair, Uma Bharti. Both had visited local temples, within minutes of each other, over the past few weeks.

Last evening, Digvijay landed in coastal Karnataka’s temple town of Udupi, taking a two-day break from picking Congress nominees for the December 1 Assembly poll. The town happens to be the seat of his rival’s spiritual guru. The seer of Pejawar, Vishweshwarthirtha, had initiated Bharti into the spiritual order as sadhvi.

Digvijay, however, did not drop in at the Krishna temple, where the seer — who doubles as a Vishwa Hindu Parishad vice-president — has his math. The chief minister’s well-wishers are said to have urged him to visit the temple.

Udupi was only a night stopover for Digvijay on his way to his destination 40 km away — the Kollur temple of Goddess Mukambika, deep inside dense Western Ghat forests.

Digvijay may well have turned south and to Kollur to seek a repeat of M.G. Ramachandran’s political feat. The late Tamil Nadu chief minister, who won the chair three times between 1977 and 1987, religiously visited the goddess every year. If Digvijay’s party wins this December, it would be his third term.

Others from the south who have followed in MGR’s footsteps are Kerala’s K. Karunakaran, Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa and her Karnataka counterpart, S.M. Krishna.

With powerful devotees falling at the goddess’ feet, the temple’s annual earnings have soared over the years. At last count, it was said to be Rs 12 crore. (MGR presented a silver sword on each visit.)

Digvijay’s party will consider his nominees to 120 contentious seats on his return.

He set out for the south soon after the party virtually cleared candidates for 110 of the 230 Assembly seats.

But no one in the party circle appears to know who advised Digvijay to try an untested god. An intelligent guess points to his Karnataka counterpart.

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