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Photos: The charlatan & the gull.


The Charlatan & The Gull:
Newly-Named Cabinet Minister Consults Astrologer and is Assured India's Presidency





The following was the top-headline story on India’s leading news journal, ‘India Today’ this morning.

We present it to you for discussion on
The Roundtable Open Forum # 136.


India’s Minister for Human Resource Development, Smriti Irani, consulted over the course of an intense four-hour-long meeting with, and was assured by, a Rajasthan-based astrologer on Sunday, November 23, 2014, that she is destined to become the President of India.

The 38-year-old minister was on a visit with her husband Zubin Irani to Karoi village in Bhilwara, Rajasthan, where she met Pandit Nathulal Vyas. The same astrologer had predicted, it is claimed, a ‘bright career’ and ‘big post’ for Irani in her political career before she became a Minister in the Modi government.

In the lengthy meeting with Vyas, Irani reportedly asked several questions on her political and personal future and also thanked the astrologer for his earlier blessing.

When asked on Monday, November 24, about the meeting, the cabinet minister was dismissive. "What I do in my personal life doesn't come under responsibility of media. I appreciate your efforts to keep me in the headlines," Irani said.

An interesting story from Irani's past goes that an astrologer had once dismissed her of having any good future and doing something worthwhile. The budding television actress had confidently told the astrologer to check on her 10 years down the line.

With her meeting, Irani, who has often been accused of pandering to right-wing groups calling for a revision of India's education system, may have given further fodder to her detractors.

Upon hearing of the Minister’s consultation, Janata Dal-United leader Ali Anwar was quick to quip: "The next time I meet her, I will recite this couplet: Haathon ki lakeeron par itna na aitbaar kariye / naseeb unka bhi hota hai jinke haath nahi hote. (Do not have so much faith on mere lines on your hands / Remember, those who do not even have hands also have their destiny in place)," he said.

"It is not right that the person who should be campaigning against superstitions, the same education minister is spreading myths," Anwar added.

BJP ally, Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut, on the other hand, defended the minister, "Astrology is a shastra (science) and anyone is welcome to believe in it. There's no need to make a mountain out of a molehill."


We invite our readers to ruminate on the following issues and questions that flow from this remarkable lead news story:

Is it appropriate for a 38-year old newly-elected politician to start campaigning to be appointed the Head of State of the country within a few months after being named a Minister in the Narendra Modi cabinet? 

Who’s minding the store, while she schemes and covets more power and prestige? What do her superiors think of her antics as she campaigns for their jobs?

Is a consultation with an astrologer -- not a frivolous or light one; it was 4 hours long -- appropriate for one who shapes text-books and educational standards in the country’s schools, colleges and universities?

What is one to conclude about her political acumen and judgement from the fact that she took along a full team of PR and political staff, complete with a ministerial security unit, and accompanied by a whole entourage of media reporters, on what she claims was a ’private’ meeting?

In a nation now totally run by the Hindutva crowd, is this how all of the country’s ‘leaders’ operate, including in making their day-to-day as well as long-term policy decisions which have a direct impact on 1.2 billion souls?   

Is this India’s version of a ’trial balloon’? Does that mean that the current Congress stooge sitting as President of India is on his last leg? [Maybe it is time for him to summon his own astrologer!]

Finally, should anyone who is soft enough in the head to consult an astrologer and take him seriously, be allowed to head any organization? Or even let loose on the streets, leave alone in the corridors of power?  

[Courtesy: India Today. Edited for]
November 24, 2014

Conversation about this article

1: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), November 24, 2014, 2:23 PM.

I don't think for a second that any of the politicians that visit these charlatans believe in the predictions. The uneducated masses on the other hand are another story. If someone told an uneducated Indian living in a village that an astrologer predicted that a certain politician would win, who do you think they would vote for?

2: H. Kaur (Canada), November 25, 2014, 12:59 AM.

I don't know about educated Indians not believing in the hocus pocus. I have friends who were born in England and Canada, are in educated professions such as pharmacists, etc. and they believe in all sorts of superstitious Indian nonsense. I had a theory that the women were more likely to believe in this nonsense, but just recently a man claimed his neighbour gave his grandson chocolate and days later they both cut their hair because it had a magical spell in it. So what can one say except that Indians of all types, rich or poor, educated or not, in India or out, seem to be a very superstitious lot. In a land where the priests have been spreading this nonsense for millennia for the masses to be in their power, to be too stupid to claim their rights or anything, of course superstitions are still a blight. Now it is not just the pandits, the corrupt and thieving politicians too want the people to be too stupid to challenge them. What better way than unleashing superstitions and keeping them poor and uneducated and persecuting those whose faiths teach people not to be superstitious?

3: Onkar Singh (New Jersey, USA), November 25, 2014, 7:37 AM.

A very calculated move indeed. Note the meticulously posed photos, and strategically released to the press. A private matter, my foot!

4: Kaala (Punjab), November 25, 2014, 12:15 PM.

Indian astrologers have also predicted that India will become the most advanced country in the times to come and there will a third world war in which India will emerge as a superpower beating China and USA. But as of now, the situation is that 80% of the population does not even have toilets. God bless the astrologers and the people who believe them!

5: R Singh  (Canada), November 25, 2014, 11:29 PM.

All the posing and the hoopla ... perhaps it's about gauging their boundaries or a plain decoy for the Adani loan scandal? And yes, the astrology shastra could not bring them to power for a thousand years, and now they aspire for a world war and the power they think it'll bring into their hands. Who do they expect to fight this for them ... the soothsayers and the spell casters? Because there's no one else who has even a gram of guts or courage!

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Newly-Named Cabinet Minister Consults Astrologer and is Assured India's Presidency"

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