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Time to thank the other deity

New Delhi, May 29: 10 Janpath is not the only pilgrimage centre for Congress leaders.

Less than a week into office, several ministers in the Manmohan Singh government — senior and junior — have dispersed for a darshan of their favourite deity.

Heading the list is home minister Shivraj Patil, whose appointment was one of the big surprises of the portfolio allocation. Like his predecessor in the P.V. Narasimha Rao government, the late S.B. Chavan, Patil is an ardent devotee of Satya Sai Baba. He left for Bangalore this evening for a darshan tomorrow.

After the shock defeat in Latur in Maharashtra, the former Speaker was not even thought to be in the race for a place in the government, let alone the prize portfolio of home. But thanks to the blessings of Sonia Gandhi, not to mention the gods above, he was propelled into the hot seat.

Finance minister P. Chidambaram, the biggest surprise that the Prime Minister sprang, left for Chennai today. His programme includes a visit to the famous Mangadu temple near the southern metropolis.

Textiles minister Shankersinh Vaghela was among the first to rush home to thank the gods. He left for Gujarat three days ago to visit a temple — not Akshardham — near Ahmedabad. Just five months ago, Vaghela had lost the post of state Congress chief. The surprise inclusion as cabinet minister has lent him a fresh lease of life.

Several junior ministers, for whom the berths were a windfall, have followed suit. Minister of state for coal and mines Dasari Narayana Rao, better known in the Telugu film world as a lyricist, headed to Tirupati, happy to have made it out of a clutch of contenders from his state.

Minister of state for surface transport, highways and shipping K.H. Muniappa did not wait for the weekend. Four days ago, the first-time minister held a havan in a thanksgiving ritual that will finally take him to Tirupati.

Joining the temple rush is AICC secretary Jairam Ramesh. Although he is not a minister, he has reason enough to be grateful. During the campaign, his loyalty to the party was questioned in the media. He is relieved to have survived to author the new government’s common minimum programme. Jairam left for a darshan of Lord Venkateshwara on the Tirumala hills in Tirupati.

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