New Delhi: Self-styled godman Chandraswami, who counted among his friends and disciples prime ministers, kings and Hollywood celebrities, died in near anonymity today of multiple organ failure at a Delhi hospital. He was 66 and had recently suffered a stroke.
“Spiritual leader Jagadacharya Chandraswami ji, 66 years old, had been ailing for some time. He recently suffered a stroke," an Apollo Hospital statement said.
Chandraswami, an astrologer and tantric, was considered close to prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and was probed for his alleged role in plotting and financing the killing of Rajiv Gandhi.
Controversy’s favourite child, the self-proclaimed godman in flowing silk saffron robes and sporting a tilak on his forehead, faced a bevy of criminal cases—ranging from FERA violations, to blackmail and cheating, to shady arms deals.
Claimed to have extraordinary astrological and tantric skills, he became close to Narasimha Rao who was a minister in the Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi cabinet. His fortunes soared when Rao became the prime minister.
Rao had retired from active politics when he was asked to become prime minister after Congress’s victory following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. Soon after Rao became the prime minister, Chandraswami built an ashram—Vishwa Dharmayatan Sanathan—in Qutub Institutional Area of Delhi.
The land for the ashram was said to have been allotted by Indira Gandhi.
Chandraswami, whose real name was Nemi Chand Jain, was claimed to have dispensed spiritual advice to the Sultan of Brunei, Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa of Bahrain, actress Elizabeth Taylor, British premier Margaret Thatcher and arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi among other famous figures.
He also counted some heads of state and government as his close friends.
The alleged role of Chandrawami in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi came to light in a report submitted by the M.C. Jain judicial commission, which went into the aspect of conspiracy behind the killing of the former prime minister.
The Congress, in its submissions before the Jain Commission in 1997 accused Chandraswami of having financed the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi after playing a key role in the conspiracy jointly hatched by various terrorist outfits in London and executed by the LTTE.
In its report, the Jain Commission dedicated a volume to his alleged involvement. The Enforcement Directorate also investigated his alleged role as financier of the killing.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to give a time-frame for completing a detailed probe, saying the larger conspiracy behind the assassination had to be investigated.
The court was hearing a plea on the matter by A.G. Perarivalan, one of the convicts whose death sentence was commuted to a life term in the case. He faced charges of repeated violation of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act. An income-tax raid on his ashram is reported to have uncovered original drafts of payments to Adnan Khashoggi of $11 million. Khashoggi was allegedly involved in the “Iran-Contra affair" as a key middleman in the arms-for-hostages exchange along with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar.
The “Iran-Contra affair" was a political scandal in the US during the second term of Ronald Reagan as President. Senior Reagan Administration officials had secretly facilitated the sale of arms to Iran, which was the subject of an arms embargo.