By M. Karthikeyan, New Delhi, Apr 3 (IANS) :
Democracy may have taken deep roots in India, but many of its politicians still look up to the planets and stars as they go out seeking votes.
Candidates may swear by the country's mammoth electorate, but an increasing number of them make it a point to consult astrologers and bow before holy men to know if they enjoy divine blessings or not.
With parliamentary elections around the corner, the stargazers are having a field day.
"If there is coordination between the horoscope of a politician and that of the nation, then victory is assured for the candidate," explains a leading New Delhi based astrologer, Ajay Gautam.
Even as parties chalk out strategies to win, soothsayers are being consulted to know whether or not one should contest, if a constituency is a favourable battleground or not, and even the auspicious time for filing nomination papers.
No wonder, then, politicians insist on filing their nominations at odd hours: 11.54 a.m., 1.36 p.m., 3.02 pm, 4.14 p.m...
As planetary movements and positions of constellations keep changing, the oracles also come up with remedial suggestions to overcome temporary setbacks.
The five essential remedies prescribed by the astrologers are: mantra (hymns), ratna (gems), dan (donation), aushadi (herbs) and snan (holy bath).
Astrologers are unanimous that the birth chart of India, drafted at the time of the country's independence on Aug 15, 1947, holds the key to the fortunes of politicians.
"While predictions based on personal horoscopes suffice for individuals, the country's horoscope has to be taken into account while making predictions for politicians," says Gautam, who also hosts www.myastrohelpline.com.
No wonder even Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee once consulted famous soothsayer Bejan Daruwalla to know what the future held for him and the country.
Another New Delhi-based astrologer is Kusum Vashishth, whose list of clients includes top politicians. She says that many policymakers are themselves well-versed with the nuances of astrology.
"Though they consult us for remedying hindrances, they themselves are aware of various aspects like the 'muhurat' (auspicious time)," she says.
Invariably, the politicians -- much like the common man -- avoid 'Rahu Kalam' and 'Guliki Kalam,' the two most inauspicious times of the day according to the Hindu calendar, while undertaking any important work.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayaram Jayalalitha acknowledges the importance of astrology and 'vastu,' which acts as a spiritual guide to the manner many one's dwelling should be constructed.
The dependence on astrological predictions is often related to what the individual does in his or her personal or professional life, says an astrologer who did not want to be named.
"Fear of the omnipotent more than fear in the ordinary mortal is what drives politicians to traditional astrological remedies," he says. "It is more like an antidote to cure an illness."
Other remedies include 'havan', or fire ritual, and sacrificing animals to please the gods.
Jayalalitha donated an elephant calf to a well-known temple in Kerala after returning to power in 2001 in Tamil Nadu - when many had simply written her off.
Almost everyone consults astrologers, says P.K. Vasanthakumar, an astrological consultant for a website.
Ministers, election hopefuls and even party activists are eager to know the predictions for themselves and their leaders.
"It is more like an opinion poll. Only in this case the experts conducting the poll are astrologers based on the response of the planetary movement," he added.
Vasanthakumar claims to have made predictions for Vajpayee as well as a string of chief ministers besides
Jayalalitha (Tamil Nadu): N. Chandrababu Naidu (Andhra Pradesh), Narendra Modi (Gujarat), Suhsilkumar Shinde (Mahrashtra), Mulayam Singh Yadav (Uttar Pradesh) and Mufti Mohammed Sayeed (Jammu and Kashmir).
The demand for election-related predictions is so much that thousands of astrologers have carved a niche for themselves in the art of studying the stars and planetary positions.