Colombo, August 21(The New Indian Express): Facing a major political challenge from his party rival and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, accompanied by his wife Jayanthi and son Daham, worshiped at the Lord Venkateswara temple here on Sunday to seek the powerful presiding deity’s blessings.
He visited the hill temple twice to pay obeisance to the presiding deity, Lord Venkateswara.
The President who had spent Saturday night in the hill town, took part in the Suprabhatha Seva performed at 3 am on Sunday. He visited the shrine again later in the day at the time set apart for Very Very Important Persons. The President was accompanied by his wife Jayanthi Pushpa Kumari and and son Daham Tharaka, all three clad in white as per the Sri Lankan Buddhist custom.
The President and his entourage had spent more than fifteen minutes inside the sanctum sanctorum. The Chief priest who honored him with the ‘Silk Vastram’ of the Lord also explained to him the importance of the deity Lord Venkateswara.
A group of Sri Vaishnavite scholars showered Vedasrivachanams on the President and his family at the Ranganayakula Mandapam and the authorities presented him with a memento and Prasadams.
Earlier, on his arrival at the main entrance of the Tirupathi temple complex, he was ceremonially received by the temple authorities. Prominent among those who received him were the Thirumala Thirupathi Devasthanam Chairman, Chaudhury Krishna Murthy and Executive officer Dr. D. Sambasiva Rao. Andhra Pradesh Forest Minister Bojjala Gopala krishna Reddy had been specially deputed by Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu to accompany the Sri Lankan President during his stay in Thirupathi.
After some rest at the Sri Krishna guest house the Sri Lankan President left for Bangalore by road to fly back to back to Colombo. Significantly he did not fly to Colombo from Chennai apprehending demonstration by pro-Eelam Tamil parties in Tamil Nadu.
Security arrangements at the temple and Thirupathi town were tight.
Reasons for pilgrimage
The Sri Lankan President is currently facing a serious challenge within his own party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), from former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Rajapaksa group in parliament, calling itself the “Joint Opposition” is trying to stall every move of the coalition government Sirisena is heading. There is also a move to spoil the party convention on September 4 through a boycott.
Sirisena has taken strong steps to stem the revolt. Earlier this week he sacked 40 electorate and district level party leaders. Two pro-Rajapaksa organizers, Dullus Alahaperuma and Bandula Gunawardene, subsequently resigned in protest against the purge.
Sirisena will be facing a political test when the local bodies’ elections are held in the first half of 2017. Party dissidents are bound to put up rebel candidates and Sirisena will have to face them alone because he cannot have an alliance with his coalition partner United National Party in the local bodies elections. He has to show that he can win the elections on his own. At any rate, the UNP will not go for an alliance with him as it will have to sacrifice too many seats to accommodate Srisena’s candidates.
It is in this context that Sirisena went to Tirupathi. According to Ceylon Today, one of the high priests of the temple had called on the President while he was on a visit to Sri Lanka and invited him to visit the temple. Sirisena had gone to Tirupathi on a pilgrimage earlier too when he was elected President in 2015