Male and Female Rasputins – Yesterday and Today

Picture: The Economist

Picture: The Economist

The role of very powerful men and women behind leading politicians is a common story worldwide. Many can give enough material to write a series of books that can actually be bestsellers. The side-stories about Park Geun-hye are somewhat in that league and roused memories of India’s only woman Prime Minster, Indira Gandhi.

There is a lot of media talk about Choi-Soon-sil and her influence on South Korea’s impeached President. How Choi developed this influence goes back to the days of her father, Choi Tae-min, described as a shamanistic cult-like figure.

Choi Tae-min found an easy enough way to Park’s soul. He told her that Park’s mother, who had been assassinated, came to him in his dreams. Her wish was that Choi should protect and take care of her daughter, Park.

How this escalated into immense power for his daughter is a story that South Koreans are surely familiar with. That it could lead to impeachment is a thought that does not occur in the minds of those who wield such power and openly indulge in rampant corruption.

In India, cult figures inveigle their way into political corridors quite easily. Any godman / good woman worth their name, has a string of powerful politicians, industrialists, bureaucrats, businessmen, what-have-you behind him/her.

For Indira Gandhi, it was Dhirendra Brahmachari, who claimed to be a Yogi and a celibate.

Mrs. Gandhi’s favorite son was the younger one, Sanjay, who worked with her. He was fond of flying and doing maneuvers while flying. Unfortunately, he died suddenly in a plane crash. Dhirendra Brahmachari was already very close to the family and had been a defender of Sanjay’s questionable political actions. After Sanjay’s death, Indira Gandhi was a lonely woman. The time was perfect for the Yogi to play out all his cards, which he did.

Brahmachari got land and construction rights to build an ashram in the most expensive area not far from the Prime Minister’s residence. All those who mattered were more than happy to give him donations.

It was not long before various ministries like that of education and health were doling out grant after grant to the Yogi. He even managed to get clearance from the Ministry of Defence for a helipad near a defense base in the Himalaya.

At his peak, the so-called Yogi was part-owner of an arms manufacturing business. In those days, gossip among the communists talked about the Yogi being an intermediary for the Soviet army in their battle against the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.

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