Before they swear on the Constitution, the modern Indian leader swears by the heads of the various religious mutts with a deep slash of vermillion or vibhuti on his forehead.
It may be genuine devotion, it may be an honest expression of gratitude.
It may be smart politics, of being on the right side of “god’s men”.
It may be just good PR, about sending the right signals to the followers of the mutts that here is a god-fearing (or godman-fearing) man who respects our ancient customs and traditions.
But what is the signal that is to be received when matters of faith, religion and spirituality have become the last thing on the minds of most (not all) swamijis? When transfers and postings, licences, land deals, and other forms of patronage have become their leit motif?
What is the signal that is to be received when a chief minister-in-waiting is made to stand while the swamiji sits grandly and hands out fruits, flowers and other prasada, while chelas, chamchas, brokers and factotums of neta and swamiji squeeze into the photo-frame.
That government work is godmen’s work?
That while “We, the People” might vote and reject, it is the swamijis whose writ eventually runs?
Yesterday, on the day 40 perished when a lorry tumbled into a coconut grove, B.S. Yediyurappa was visiting temples and mutts as if they were all going to be closed tomorrow.