The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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New moon worries Sena

Mumbai, Sept. 13: On October 13, expect no light.

The Shiv Sena and BJP alliance today met chief election commissioner T.S. Krishnamurthy, in Mumbai for a day, and asked him to change the poll date from October 13 to October 12, because October 13 is Sarvapitri Amavasya ' and an amavasya (new moon) is inauspicious.

On that no-moon day, Hindus make offerings to the spirits of their ancestors. A high-level delegation ' led by former Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi from the Sena and former Union petroleum minister Ram Naik and Vinod Tawade from the BJP ' met Krishnamurthy at the official Sahyadri Guest House and requested him to change the date as observance of the ritual would affect the casting of votes. That was the official reason.

The Sena had more reason to be afraid. As their personal astrologers have warned them, the election date may portend ill luck.

October 13 is a non-starter, according to Hindu astrologers. 'Subhkarma nasti' (no good work), warn the almanacs. Though it is Mahalaya, the day is also amavasya, making it an inauspicious one.

As Debipaksha (the divine fortnight) starts after Mahalaya and the moon waxes, the stars reach more favourable positions. The clearance for all deeds comes from October 15, astrologers said.

So the Sena wanted a respite from the heavenly bodies. But if the stars look menacing on October 13, the Election Commission was as unrelenting today. The commission rejected the Sena-BJP demand for changing the poll date.

'There was no unanimity among the political parties over it so they have decided to maintain October 13 as the polling date,' Krishnamurthy said.

He said that there was no question of postponing the elections, too, as Navratri, an even bigger religious occasion, begins on October 14.

Krishnamurthy repeatedly stressed that religious rites and festivals should be observed without any political message coming from them.

On Sena chief Bal Thackeray's comment that the Election Commission should distinguish between religion and politics, Krishnamurthy retorted that it was not his job to do so. 'We are not providing dictionary service. There is law and the courts to clear the distinction,' he said.

But perhaps the Sena and the BJP are more god-fearing ' the other parties, at least officially, don't seem to be so concerned at the heavens auguring ill. Congress spokesperson Muzaffar Hussain said requesting for a change in election date was a Sena ploy to rake up another 'religious, emotional and sentimental issue'. 'They have known the date for quite some time now. Why this sudden realisation' he asked.

'The Congress welcomes the Election Commission's decision of not altering the date. We accepted the date from the beginning and did not want to change it. The party has always decided to abide by what the commission says,' he added.

Nationalist Congress Party leader Nawab Malik also echoed the Congress. 'We will do what the Election Commission asks us to do,' he said.

The Sena could find some solace in the fact that October 13 is not a Friday ' it's only a harmless Wednesday.

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