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Showcause over Nita visit

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G.S. RADHAKRISHNA   |     |   Published 29.04.10, 12:00 AM

Hyderabad, April 28: A section of employees of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, the independent trust that runs the Venkateswara temple, has been served with a showcause notice for allegedly bestowing undue favours on IPL franchise owner Nita Ambani and her entourage last week.

Ambani, the wife of Reliance Industries boss Mukesh Ambani who owns Mumbai Indians, had visited the temple last Saturday to seek the blessings of Lord Venkateswara ahead of Sunday’s final against the Chennai Super Kings.

Also in the entourage of some 40 people were Kokilaben Ambani, the mother of Mukesh, and Anjali Tendulkar, the wife of Mumbai Indians captain Sachin Tendulkar.

I.Y.R. Krishna Rao, an IAS officer deputed as the executive officer of the trust, has served a showcause notice on the officials, including the chief priest, for providing the Ambanis “out of the way service”, even to the extent of violating age-old traditions of the temple.

The basic charge laid out in the notice is that the Ambani team was given VVIP treatment reserved for Prime Ministers and Presidents during their surprise visit to Tirumala on Saturday night.

The temple has a clearly laid down VIP protocol that covers the President, Prime Minister, chief minister and heads of state or government.

Besides, the temple has a provision called a “VIP break darshan”. Under this, a bunch of VIPs are allowed to go up to the sanctum sanctorum without waiting in queue but only at specific hours decided by the trust executive officer.

The showcause notice says all norms were violated by chief priest A.V. Ramana Dikshitulu, who provided the entourage with an instant special darshan on Saturday night itself.

The deity is open to darshan from about 3.30 in the morning till midnight when, according to tradition, the lord begins his rest. But Nita Ambani and her guests were allowed darshan at 12.30am.

“It appears that the Ekanta Seva (the procedure for giving rest to Lord Venkateswara before closing the temple) was delayed to facilitate the VVIPs from Mumbai,” temple sources said.

A source associated with the trust chuckled that the lord may not have been too amused at being denied rest. “All the effort of Nita Ambani went to waste since Chennai thrashed Mumbai Indians,” he said.

The showcause notice points out that though the Ghat Road, a 24km stretch connecting Tirupati below and Tirumala uphill where the temple is situated, is normally shut down after midnight, the entourage travelling in some 13 cars was allowed passage with the intervention of the trust officials, including chairman D.K. Adikeshavulu Naidu.

Chief priest Dikshitulu has courted controversy earlier as well. He had been hauled up only a few days ago for visiting the private guesthouse of the Ambanis at Tirumala on April 20, the birthday of Mukesh, and showering him with the special blessings (Ashirvachanam) of Lord Venkateswara.

“Normally, such blessings are presented by priests at the Ranga Mantapam in the Srivari Temple only and not outside,” said Gopalakrishna, the deputy executive officer of the trust.

Dikshitulu has earlier been in the news for performing a private yagam at Tirumala, intended to seek divine blessings for Kadapa MP Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s political prospects as chief minister after a helicopter crash killed his father Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy.

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