Once a frequent high-flyer who could boast of the rich and famous as friends, controversial self-styled godman Chandraswami rose to national prominence due to his proximity to former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao but he died today in obscurity. Chandraswami, the bearded draped-in-silk man with a heavy gold amulet around his neck and a tilak prominent on his forehead, has always been in the eye of a storm–be it arms deals, FERA violations, blackmail, cheating or fraud. He first gained fame as an astrologer. He died in a hospital here at the age of 66.
The alleged role of Chandrawami in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi also 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. Gandhi was killed by a LTTE ‘human bomb’ in Sriperumbudur, near Chennai, on May 21, 1991.
Chandraswami was last in the news in 2014 when the Delhi Police probed a complaint by a businessman that he was robbed off gemstones worth Rs 3 crore at the tantrik’s ashram in Qutub Institutional Area in Delhi.
The self-proclaimed faith healer and preacher was said to have been Narasimha Rao’s spiritual adviser. Soon after Rao became prime minister in 1991, Chandraswami built an ashram known as Vishwa Dharmayatan Sanathan in Qutub Institutional Area. The land for the ashram was stated to have been allotted by Indira Gandhi.
Chandraswami, whose real name is Nemi Chand and is a Jain by religion, is said 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 Congress in 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.
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 assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. In June 2011, the Supreme Court fined Chandraswami, for violating the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, a sum of Rs 9 crores.
Chandraswami has been accused repeatedly of financial irregularities. In 1996 he was arrested on charges of defrauding a London-based businessman of 100,000 USD. He has faced charges for 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 USD.
His father came from Behror in Rajasthan and worked as a money lender. He moved to Hyderabad when Chandraswami was a child.
According to published documents, Chandraswami was attracted to tantric studies from an early age. He left home when still young to become a student of Upadhyar Amar Muni and the tantrik pandit Gopinath Kaviraj. He later lived in the jungles of Bihar where he spent time in meditation. He claims that after four years he obtained extraordinary powers called siddhis.
Late British premier Margaret Thatcher was also said to have held secret meetings with Chandraswami in London when the Tory leader was in the opposition.
The Iron Lady, who was renowned for her no-nonsense direct approach, conversed with Chandraswami in 1975 in her Commons office.
And the future prime minister was so impressed with his apparent powers that she agreed to his request to wear a special red dress and a battered talisman around her wrist to a second meeting.
There, 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.
Details of the extraordinary meetings were revealed by former diplomat Natwar Singh, who was present when they took place.