Name-dropping keeps Kerala priests on toes

HD Kumaraswamy's personal secretary was on a pilgrimage with his friends last week and decided to visit the Rajarajeswari and Bhadrakali temples in Kerala. He informed the Trust officials that former Prime Minister Deve Gowda was to arrive shortly so that he and his friends could enjoy VIP treatment and this resulted in a comedy of errors

A good example of the rampant misuse of powerful names came to the fore recently after a personal assistant to former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy sent the Kerala police into a tizzy simply because he wanted VIP treatment for himself and three friends.

Narasimha Murthy (left), who joined HD Kumaraswamy (right) six months ago, used former PM H D Deve Gowda's (inset) name to get instant and unrestricted entry into a famous temple in Kerala last Sunday

Narasimhamurthy used former prime minister H D Deve Gowda's name to get instant and unrestricted entry into a famous temple in Kerala last Sunday, thereby triggering a chain reaction as the cops scrambled to put security measures into place.

Narasimhamurthy, a diploma holder in Computer Sciences, joined Kumaraswamy six months ago and appears to have gotten addicted to the royal treatment the Gowda family enjoys wherever they go. The personal secretary's group was on a pilgrimage to Shabarimale last week and had visited the Ayyappa Swamy shrine.
On the return journey they decided to pray at the Rajarajeswari temple and Bhadrakali temple. Narasimhamurthy called Malabar Devasthanam Trust and told the officials that Deve Gowda was to visit the shrine. As word spread, measures were taken and the atmosphere was changed accordingly.

"We thought the former primer was coming, as he is a frequent visitor. But, a group of men came saying they were members of the Gowda family. When we enquired on Gowda's arrival, they said he was not coming," said a priest in the Rajarajeswari temple.

The temples of Rajarajeswari and Bhadrakali are constantly in the news these days, thanks to politicians from Karnataka frequenting and partaking in the peculiar rituals observed there.

It is believed that a donkey should be sacrificed as part of 'Shatru Samhara', a ritual to get rid of an enemy, and meat is offered as prasad to devotees. It is said the 'prasad' is prepared from the meat of the sacrificed animal.

While Deve Gowda is the earliest among the politicians from the state to visit these temples and perform the rituals, former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa followed suit.

Yeddyurappa is believed to have conducted the Shatru Samhara' ritual before he won the trust vote last year, after sixteen MLAs withdrew their support from his government.
K G Bopiah, speaker of the assembly, disqualified the legislators facilitating an easy win for the CM in the house.
In a bid to pay back with the same coin, the sixteen disqualified MLAs - eleven from the BJP and five independents - had sacrificed a donkey and performed the same ritual against Yeddyurappa at these temples.
Subsequently, the Supreme Court quashed their disqualification and Yeddyurappa stepped down owing to his indictment in the Lokayukta report on illegal mining.

Media reports are believed to have aroused Narasimhamutrhy's interest and he said to have promised his friends, who were equally curious, to show them the temples.
But, the entourage wanted VIP treatment so Narasimhamurthy called Malabar Devasthanam Trust and told the officials that Deve Gowda was visiting.

"A person called up introducing himself as the PA to Kumaraswamy and said the former prime minister was coming. We passed on the information to the temples and suitable arrangements were made. I heard Deve Gowda didn't turn up," said one Bijli Joseph, an official in Malabar Devastanam Trust.

Although Gowda enjoys Z-category security being a former prime minister, sometimes he allegedly disregards protocol to ensure privacy.

The temple authorities thought it was one such private visit and did not bother to check with the related authorities. Instead, they arranged for extra security at the temple. A source said they even requested CPM activists, who were on protest over a certain issue, to call off the strike.

"It is not a crime to drop names to get favourable treatment. Also, we are disappointed with Deve Gowda not turning up, but it hurts when you realize someone has lied," said a senior priest on condition of anonymity.

The temple authorities came to know about the lie after calling Gowda's home in Bangalore and learning from the family that he had no such tour plans.

"We enquired about Narasimhamurthy and they said he was with Kumaraswamy," said the priest.
Narasimhamurthy admitted that he visited the temples out of curiosity and had called Malabar Devastanam Trust before going there.

"Our intention was not to mislead the authorities. There was confusion due to miscommunication and when we arrived there, the temple authorities asked where Deve Gowda was. I called our colleagues in Bangalore and found out that Gowda was in Mangalore.

While I conveyed this to the temple authorities, I apologized with them and think they have taken in their stride," Narasimhamurthy said. Meanwhile, when this reporter attempted to contact Kumaraswamy, he was unavailable for comment.

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