Modi or Gandhi? Indian mystics split over poll outcome

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In this photograph taken on March 15, 2019, Larra Shah, an Indian mystic, shows cards during an interview with AFP in Mumbai. ( AFP / PUNIT PARANJPE)
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In this photograph taken on March 18, 2019 Indian transgender mystic Zoya Lobo shuffles her 'oracle' cards during an interview with AFP in Mumbai. (AFP / Indranil Mukherjee)
Updated 22 March 2019
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Modi or Gandhi? Indian mystics split over poll outcome

  • Larra Shah expects Modi to be returned, but with a vastly reduced majority
  • Raj Kumar Sharma thinks opposition leader Rahul Gandhi will win

MUMBAI: Transgender mystic Zoya Lobo turns over three oracle cards, studies them for a minute and looks up. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will definitely win India’s general election this summer, she proclaims.
Clairvoyant Larra Shah also predicts a victory for Modi owing to his “extremely powerful aura,” but astrologer Raj Kumar Sharma thinks opposition leader Rahul Gandhi will win because his party’s moon sign is Virgo.
Vedic astrology is big business in Hindu-majority India and stargazers are making a host of predictions for the world’s biggest elections starting next month — their many followers hanging on every utterance.
Some 900 million voters are registered to cast ballots in the vote in April and May which will see Gandhi’s Congress party seek to dislodge Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from power.
Shah, 49, a celebrity holistic healer who practices tarot reading, says most of them will plump for Modi, himself a devout Hindu.
“When it comes to tarot cards Modi is like the emperor or the magician where the power of self-knowledge, of spiritual balance, of karma, is in perfection,” she explains to AFP.
“Rahul Gandhi is more like the devil because he’s always confused. There is a conflict there because he is a Gemini so has a dual personality,” Shah adds.
Modi, 68, and the right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP swept to power five years ago by winning 282 out of 543 seats, forming the country’s first majority government in almost three decades.
Shah expects Modi to be returned, but with a vastly reduced majority. Pre-election polling suggests an even closer contest, with many forecasting that neither party will win the 272 seats needed for a majority.
Lobo also has a prediction that hits closer to home for her — a 35 percent chance that Modi will do something to help India’s two-million-strong transgender community.
Indians consult soothsayers for advice on a raft of subjects from whom to marry to whether to buy a house or strike a business deal.
Many businessmen, Bollywood actors and politicians have personal astrologers scrutinize their stars closely to determine auspicious days to hold functions, release a movie or make political announcements.
For the election, Sharma says the planets are aligning in favor of Congress — based on the birth dates of the parties and their leaders — and that it will be able to persuade smaller, regional parties to join them in a coalition.
“Congress’s moon sign is Virgo and at present a favorable Jupiter Mahadasha (period) is happening for them while the BJP’s moon sign is Scorpio,” he explains.
“Rahul Gandhi’s favorable period has started and his moon is more powerful than Narendra Modi’s moon so my prediction is very clear: Rahul Gandhi will either become the prime minister or will make the prime minister with the support of his party.”
He sees the elections being “extremely volatile” because they were declared at an inauspicious time — when the sun was setting instead of rising — and that they may witness more violence between India and Pakistan.


Kakapow! Rare world’s fattest parrot has record breeding season

Updated 37 min 38 sec ago
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Kakapow! Rare world’s fattest parrot has record breeding season

  • Females control the breeding process and only mate every two to four years when New Zealand’s native rimu trees are full of fruit
  • The surviving kakapo — whose name means ‘night parrot’ in Maori — are kept on four predator-free islands

WELLINGTON: The world’s fattest parrot, the critically endangered kakapo, has enjoyed a record-breaking breeding season, New Zealand scientists said Thursday, with climate change possibly aiding the species’ unique mating spree.
Less than 50 years after the flightless nocturnal bird was thought to have been extinct, at least 75 chicks are expected to survive this year, Andrew Digby, a science adviser to New Zealand’s kakapo recovery, operation said.
Digby oversees a breeding program so precisely monitored that scientists can state the last of 249 eggs laid will hatch on Friday.
It will significantly boost the population which has grown to 147 adults since a small number of the plump green, yellow and black birds was discovered in 1970.
Digby described the kakapo as an “unusual” parrot as the females control the breeding process and only mate every two to four years when New Zealand’s native rimu trees are full of fruit.
“We don’t quite know what the trigger is but one of the things we are looking at is that the rimu berry is really high in vitamin D, a super food basically, which is associated with fertility and health,” he said.
The rimu trees have produced a bumper crop this year with Digby saying one theory was that climate change and temperature fluctuations could be behind the berry bonanza.
The surviving kakapo — whose name means “night parrot” in Maori — are kept on four predator-free islands off the New Zealand coast.
At the start of the breeding season, the males which weigh about 4 kilograms (nine pounds), put themselves on display while the females choose a partner.
They mate and then end the relationship, shutting the male out of the incubation and rearing processes.
The kakapo recovery program is so tightly monitored that although they remain in the wild, each one has a radio transmitter attached to its body and there are monitoring systems embedded in their nests.
Digby knew that of the 50 adult females, 49 produced 249 eggs, of which 89 have so far hatched and 75 were expected to make it to adulthood.
That is more than double the success rate from the last breeding season three years ago.
“It’s probably one of the most intensively managed species in the world,” said Digby, who wants at least 500 birds before any thought is given to easing up the intensity of the recovery operation.