Controversial Godman Chandraswami dies at 66
Controversial godman Chandraswami - close friend of one Indian prime minister and allegedly involved in the assassination of another — died here on Tuesday.
Chandraswami, who had suffered a stroke, died at the Apollo Hospital at the age of 66.
"Spiritual leader Jagadacharya Chandraswami ji, 66 years old, had been ailing for some time. He recently suffered a stroke," a hospital statement said.
It said a multi-organ failure led to his death at 2.56 pm.
Chandraswami's alleged role in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi came up before the Milap Chand Jain commission, which had been set up to probe the conspiracy behind the killing.
The panel devoted an entire volume to the godman.
Named Nemi Chand, Chandraswami was a Jain who worshipped the Hindu goddess, Ma Kali.
His money lender father, originally from Behror in Rajasthan, moved to Hyderabad when Chandraswami was a child.
Chandraswami, who started dabbling in horoscopes when he was young, soon shot to fame as an astrologer.
He wielded enormous power during the regime of then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and was seen as one of Rao's trusted aides and advisers.
Soon after Rao became the Prime Minister in 1991, following Gandhi's assassination in Tamil Nadu, Chandraswami is said to have built an ashram known as 'Vishwa Dharmayatan Sanathan' in Delhi's Qutb Institutional Area.
The land for the ashram was said to have been allotted to the organisation by Indira Gandhi.
Often mired in controversy, his name cropped up in investigations into Rajiv Gandhi's death in a bomb blast executed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
According to reports, the Jain Commission was told that Chandraswami, through his wide international links and involvement in major arms and financial deals, arranged the funds for the LTTE.
The commission was told the self-styled godman had every reason to play a crucial role in the conspiracy as he was arrested during Rajiv Gandhi's regime and was not allowed to go abroad, reports said.
The commission had directed that his role be further probed.
Allegations of financial irregularities were also often levelled at the long haired, white-robed self-proclaimed godman. In 1996, he was arrested on charges of defrauding a London-based businessman.
He also faced charges for repeatedly violating the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act.
Chandraswami is said to have dispensed spiritual advice to the Sultan of Brunei, Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa of Bahrain, actress Elizabeth Taylor, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
An income-tax raid on his ashram is reported to have uncovered original drafts of payments of millions of dollars to Khashoggi, who was allegedly implicated in the "Iran-Contra affair" as a key middleman in the arms-for-hostages exchange along with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar.
According to reports, Thatcher, who was known for her no-nonsense approach, conversed with Chandraswami in 1975 in her Commons office.
Thatcher, who later became Prime Minister, was apparently so impressed with his powers that she agreed to his request to wear a special red dress and a battered talisman around her wrist to a second meeting.
It is claimed the bearded guru correctly predicted that she would come to power within four years and remain there for more than a decade.
Reports said in May 2009, the Supreme Court granted Chandraswami permission to travel abroad, lifting a ban on overseas travel imposed as a result of his alleged involvement in the Gandhi assassination case.