The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Courting Ganesh, to ward off evil eye

Mumbai, July 14: The horror list is long. Suicidal farmers, plotting coalition partners, rising crime graphs, collapsing power situation, corruption charges, an unsympathetic high command. It sure isn’t easy being Vilasrao Deshmukh nowadays.

And to top it all, the floods, irate slum-dwellers, impatient bigwigs and now terrorist blasts in Mumbai staring the chief minister in the face all the time.

On 7/11, Mumbai earned the dubious record of being the only city in the world ' outside West Asia anyway ' to have witnessed two serial blasts in just over a decade, not to mention the other sundry ones.

No wonder Deshmukh is worried... and seriously considering a piece of “big-brotherly” advice from senior party colleague and former chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to seek divine intervention.

“Shinde saab feels there is panvati (bad omen) over Mumbai. He has given a big-brotherly advice to the CM to do a special puja at the Siddhi Vinayak temple to ward it off,” an aide of Shinde said.

Lord Ganesh, whose idol graces the famous temple, is also the presiding deity of Maharashtra where Ganesh Chaturthi, celebrated around September, is as big an event as the Durga Puja in Calcutta.

Shinde, apparently, had prayed at the Siddhi Vinayak temple before the 2004 Assembly polls and made a mannat (vow) that he would bring his entire cabinet to the temple if the Congress won.

His party did go on to win, but Shinde did not return as chief minister. Deshmukh was the chosen one and the promised date with the elephant-headed god was given a miss.

The temple trust now asks that the promise be honoured.

“Vilasrao Deshmukh comes here from time to time, but is yet to make it with his entire cabinet. It will help him if he does,” said Subhash Mayekar, a trustee.

Whether or not it helps Deshmukh, it certainly would help the temple authorities with some good, old-fashioned publicity, planning as they are to start a call centre for renowned temples across the country, primarily to serve NRIs.

The chief minister, who keeps hopping from one frying pan or the other to fire, is not averse to the idea.

At the end of a meeting with Mumbai’s social activists yesterday at the Council Hall, a harried-looking Deshmukh said: “I believe in doing whatever can be done for Mumbai, and there is no harm in praying to God in tough times.”

He didn’t confirm, though, that he would be at the temple with his team next Tuesday, as claimed by the Siddhi Vinayak trustees.

“These things take time to organise. It certainly would not be this Tuesday (considered the most auspicious day of the week by Ganesh devotees). But it certainly is a priority,” the chief minister’s aide, Ashok Ashtaputra, said.

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