At the crack of dawn, President Pranab Mukherjee offered prayers at the temple of Lord Venkateswara in Tirumala on Sunday. He was accompanied by daughter-in-law Chitralekha and grandson Shaunak.

On arrival, Mr. Mukherjee was received with the traditional ‘Isti kapal’ honours by priests and the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) authorities and led into the sanctum sanctorum.

The President worshipped the deity for a few minutes along with Andhra Pradesh Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan, Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, TTD Chairman K. Bapiraju and others.The chief priest, who explained the significance of the deity and the importance of the temple, honoured the President with a silk ‘vastram’ (cloth) of the Lord. After performing ‘pradakshina,’ Mr. Mukherjee put his offerings in the ‘hundi’.

As priests invoked divine blessings on the President and his family amid chants of Vedic hymns, TTD Executive Officer L.V. Subramanyam presented him with the ‘laddu prasadam,’ a photo memento, religious books and CDs.

Earlier, Mr. Mukherjee offered prayers at the Varahaswamy temple on the banks of the temple tank as per custom.

Later, he inaugurated a newly-built ‘Nandakam’ guesthouse and visited the over 130-year-old Sri Venkateswara Veda Patasala at Dharmagiri here and distributed certificates to meritorious students.

He spent half-an-hour at the institution and was impressed with the Vedic recitals by students.

Later, the President and his entourage offered prayers at the shrine of Goddess Padmavathi at Tiruchanur, near here, before boarding a flight to Delhi at the end of his 17-hour pilgrimage.

Mr. Mukherjee was given a traditional ‘poornakumbham’ welcome at Tiruchanur by priests. He took part in the ‘Kumkumarchana Seva’ at the temple.

Others present at the ceremonial reception to Mr. Mukherjee included district Minister Galla Arunakumari, Endowments Minister C. Ramachandraiah and Chittoor District Collector Solomon Arokiaraj.

PTI adds:

Evades reply on changes in tax policy

Mr. Mukherjee on Sunday refused to join the debate over changes sought to be made by the government in retrospective taxation policies and disapproved sentiments that indicate lack of confidence.

“Here policies have to be formulated by government, whatever they’ll consider, they’ll do so,” he told reporters here.

Mr. Mukherjee’s remarks came against the backdrop of the controversial measures he had introduced in this year’s budget that had come under attack from domestic and foreign investors.

He was asked about some changes in the retrospective tax provisions and General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR) being considered by new Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

Mr. Mukherjee as Finance Minister had got the income tax provisions amended to enable tax authorities to issue notice to Vodafone for realisation of tax arrears.

Asked about his speech at the Madras Chamber of Commerce yesterday against spreading prophecies of doom, the President said there were difficulties in certain areas and the country was facing problem from fall from high growth rate to low growth rate, current account deficit and lack of improvement in investment climate. Domestic savings have also gone down slightly and there was need to induct positivities.

“We have to encourage positivity and from there we have to improve our positions. Difficulties will be there.

Difficult external factors like international commodity prices like crude and petroleum prices will be there.”

“On the main theme, so I told them please instil confidence in yourself and your industry. When we are in difficulties, confidence will help us, and not lack of confidence or negative sentiments,” Mr. Mukherjee said.

In his first major speech on economy after assuming the office of President, Mr. Mukherjee on Saturday hit out at self-styled Cassandras for their prophecies of doom for the Indian economy and asserted nothing can be more dangerous to it than “negative” sentiments in the industry.

The President had said India has a huge domestic market and therefore domestic growth-driven economy may be appropriate for the country.

“In the past, we have had problems. We have overcome them through collective efforts. I am confident we will be able to overcome them. Don’t listen to self-styled Cassandras and forecasters of doom,” he had said.

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