Politicians turn to the stars Indian astrologers most busy during polls

NEW DELHI: Indian politicians watch the stars as closely as they watch the opinion polls, with many believing the world's largest election beginning this month has already been decided by the planets' alignment. 

“These are busy times for me,” said New Delhi-based astrologer Ajay Bhambi. 

“Most of the top politicians keep consulting me but during elections their demand increases. I cannot change their fate but I can forewarn them.” 

From Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee down to the thousands of aspirants thronging party offices in hopes of becoming candidates, astrology is indispensable. 

Vajpayee is due to file his nomination papers in his constituency in Lucknow on Thursday, the date when the stars are considered at their best position. 

Bhambi advises clients on everything from whether to switch parties to when to file their nomination papers. 

“They come with all sorts of problems,” Bhambi said. 

“I don't have solutions to all but I give them some gems to wear and mantras to chant that can help.” 

He also makes predictions about the elections, which are being held in five rounds from April 20 to May 10. 

His reading of the stars: The main opposition Congress will make a strong showing but not good enough to form a government. Vajpayee will again be premier and, defying media speculation, the 79-year-old will not retire any time soon. 

Astrology holds a magic power for religious Hindus with every major decision from whom to wed to when to sign a contract determined by a reading of the stars. 

Stargazing has won a serious boost under Vajpayee's Hindu nationalist-led government. Two years ago Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi asked schools to begin astrology classes. 

The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, an educational and cultural institute, already offers a structured astrology course and Delhi University has followed suit. 

Joshi's move sparked an instant controversy with the opposition accusing him of dragging India back to medieval times. 

Astrologer Ashok Agarwal uses his “science” to offer some supernatural help to politicians. 

“They come to me to find out what their chance are. They want something done so that they win. I have different remedies for different problems,” he said. 

If a politician faces hostility from voters, Agarwal suggests offering coconut, radish or mustard seeds to the poor. 

The concoction, he said, appeases ketu, an imaginary planet in the star charts of Indian astrologers. 

“This will sway the mood of the people in his favour. I transform the vibrations of the planet which governs the people from negative to positive,” he said. – AFP  

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