Egregious, self-styled guru, spiritual master, ‘godman‘ and astrologer Chandraswami died on 23 May in New Delhi. He was living in solitude at the fag end of his worldly journey. He died at the age of 66 after a prolonged illness. People kept away from his abode even after his death — so much so that those who once used to seek his blessings and advice did not deem it necessary to attend his last rites. Nemi Chandra Jain aka Chandraswami was known not only for his proximity with the who’s who of the time but also for his relations with Saudi Arab arms dealers like Adnan Khashoggi. He dominated news headlines for over 3 decades.
Once this famous godman had befriended people like successive prime ministers, chief ministers of several States, high-flying politicians — a few among them were Muslims — cutting across party lines, bureaucrats, and even Hollywood actors. He was close to former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao. The Jain Commission of Inquiry investigated him for his alleged involvement in the assassination of another former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and for allegedly providing financial assistance to the assassins. All his good relations with politicians came with a fair share of controversies. He was accused of several financial irregularities, including that of violations of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (the law was later replaced by the Foreign Exchange Management Act).
He had set up the Vishwa Dharmayatan Sansthan in Qutb Institutional Area in Delhi after Rao took over as the Prime Minister. The land for this ashram was given by another former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. He claimed to have been the spiritual guide and healer to the Sultan of Brunei, Sheikh of Bahrain Sheikh Isa bin Salman al Khalifa, Hollywood actor Elizabeth Taylor among other eminent personalities. Then Minister of External Affairs K Natwar Singh had introduced him to Margaret Thatcher when she was the opposition leader in Britain. His prediction that she would become the next prime minister of her country brought him closer to her. Then there was Khashoggi. Rumours were once abuzz that the original documents related to the payments to the arms dealer were recovered from his ashram.
Chandraswami was very close to one more Prime Minister, Chandrashekhar, and it was his family that reached Delhi’s Nigam Bodh Ghat for the cremation that witnessed his son and other relatives.
Son of a money-lender from Rajasthan, Chandraswami had started out as a tantric and astrologer before coming into contact with powerful Indian politicians. Reportedly, the godman acquired spiritual powers in Himachal Pradesh some time in the 1970s. His first political disciple was Congress leader Lalit Narain Mishra who took him to Indira Gandhi whom he impressed with his spiritual and tantric abilities. If there were friends of Chandraswami in politics, there were enemies too. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former Union HRD Minister and Congress leader Arjun Singh did not like him for his proximity with Rao. People say that these political rivalries had landed him in jail, but his position in the previous regime had made him a parallel power centre. His name finally receded into oblivion following the spate of cases of corruption against him. He spent his last days in loneliness, with few friends visiting him.