The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Polls spark God rush

Bhopal, Feb. 10: It’s time to turn to God in Madhya Pradesh. With Assembly elections due this November, the state seems to be in a rush to seek divine grace.

Not a day passes when a religious congregation is not held in some part of the state. The religious men never had it so good, barring one incident in Bhopal where they ended up receiving lathis instead of dakshina (honorarium).

Congress and BJP leaders are vying to patronise religious gatherings. Governor Bhai Mahabir does not want to be left behind either. On Saturday, he was the guest of honour at the Narmada yajna held to seek the river god’s blessings. Mahabir said that for him and millions of others, rivers were not merely a source of water.

AICC general secretary Kamal Nath’s parliamentary constituency Chhindwara played host to another yajna where two sankaracharyas joined a galaxy of Congress leaders. They prayed for Nath to continue as the “people’s representative”.

The gathering held on February 5 seemed to have some effect as chief minister Digvijay Singh declared that Chhindwara would not become a reserve constituency during the ongoing delimitation exercise.

The man who has served Chhindwara seven times will continue to do the job.

A Jain gathering in Bhopal was attended by several prominent leaders, including Uma Bharti, Digvijay, Arjun Singh and Sunderlal Patwa and a host of central and state leaders of the BJP and the Congress.

The Mahchandi yajna, which went on for 49 days from December 5, however, ended on an ugly note with the 800-odd priests being denied what had been promised to them.

Instead of a dakshina of Rs 5,100 each, the priests had to face a lathicharge.

Digvijay quickly intervened to save them. However, the organisers, who allegedly enjoy the backing of top men in the Congress and the BJP, got away without paying up.

The Muslims are not lagging behind in this race for divine blessings. In January, there was a huge ijtema (gathering) at Eetkheri near Bhopal.

Digvijay went out of his way to provide civic amenities like water, power, toilets, tents and policing. The clergy blessed him saying peace and tranquillity would prevail in the state.

Last Friday, the Muslims went a step further when they held a meet, the first of its kind, to oppose cow slaughter in the country.

In the backward district of Sagar, Muslims came out in full strength after the Friday prayers flashing placards that demanded a complete ban on beef exports.

In a memorandum addressed to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Muslim leaders headed by Qazis and muftis said those involved in stray incidents of cow slaughter should be given “exemplary punishment”.

They said the cow should be declared a national animal and its consumption prohibited.

The Sagar show pleased Digvijay the most. Having declared himself a devout “gau bhakt” who consumes cow urine, the chief minister shot a letter to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee demanding a ban cow slaughter in the country.

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