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Rationalist DMK asks ministers to do temple duty
3 Feb 2009,

CHENNAI: Members of the Tamil Nadu cabinet, barring the CM and the
finance minister, have an important engagement on Tuesday. They're to
participate in special prayers in temples across Chennai and partake
of a community feast. As irony would have it, the occasion is the
death anniversary of DMK's founder, late C N Annadurai, or Anna, a
staunch rationalist.

While DMK ministers have in the past participated in community feasts,
or `samapandhi bojanam' within temple precincts as part of observing
Anna's anniversary, this is the first time that special prayers have
been included in the programme.

"Special prayers and community feasts have been arranged in 31
important temples. The Speaker and ministers, MLAs and other VIPs are
due to grace the occasion,'' said an official release. The Hindu
religious and charitable endowments department also appended a list of
temples and the dignitaries assigned to attend the prayers and feast
in each of them.

Assembly Speaker R Avudaiyappan will be in Kapaleeswarar temple,
electricity minister Arcot N Veeraswami in Gangadeeswarar temple,
Purasawalkam, and local administration Stalin will visit three
temples. Deputy Speaker V P Duraisamy, mayor M Subramaniam, government
whip R Chakrapani and some MLAs are other DMK functionaries included
in the list. CM M Karunanidhi and finance minister K Anbazhagan, the
two leaders who still profess rationalism, were not due to participate
in the rituals.

It could not be ascertained why the government included special
prayers in the observances. Anna, a disciple of late rationalist
leader Periyar E V Ramasami, had modified his strident atheism after
founding DMK and opted to propagate humanism. "God is one, and
humanity is one,'' became his catchphrase, but he remained a
non-believer till the end.

Karunanidhi had in the past pulled up his own ministers for
participating in unusual Hindu rituals like walking on burning embers
during rural religious festivals. He had once criticised a DMK
district secretary after noticing a dab of vermilion on his forehead.
Proponents of Hinduism have criticised him often for mocking at the
religion and its practices. But it remains to be seen how they will
react to the entire cabinet offering worship at various temples as
part of the homage they pay to their party's founder.

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