Hyderabad: A year and a half after it parted ways with the BJP, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is increasingly adopting a communal tone, generally seen as the preserve of its former ally, in a bid to corner “the Christian Chief Minister” Jagan Mohan Reddy and portray him as being anti-Hindu.
Analysts say the TDP is more proactive than the BJP in Andhra Pradesh in raking up matters of Hindu faith — something Chandrababu Naidu’s party was not identified with even when it was in an alliance with the BJP — and see this as Naidu’s manoeuvre to reunite with his estranged ally.
From targeting a government proposal to hike the price of the Tirupati laddu and Jagan’s alleged rejection of the popular temple’s faith declaration form to the demolition of a temple in Guntur and pushing English medium school education everything appears to be a ploy to spread Christianity in the state. TDP leaders, spokespersons and social media managers all seem to be on an overdrive to turn the public focus onto the YSR Congress government’s “onslaught on the Hindu community”.
The TDP is particularly singling out the Tirupati controversy after the chief minister allegedly refused to sign a declaration of faith that those of other religions are required to do at the temple.
The party’s state unit president Kimidi Kala Venkatrao Sunday issued a statement asking the CM to respect the sentiments of Lord Venkateshwara devotees and sign a declaration of faith in the Tirumala deity whenever he visits the temple for darshan.
“All non-Hindus are required to sign a declaration of faith in the Lord. That Jagan’s family follows Christianity is an open secret and he does not bring along his wife for temple events,” Kimidi said.
“Devotees wish that the CM should sign the declaration. It is unfortunate that one YSRCP minister has ridiculed such sentiments.”
Kimidi was referring to Civil Supplies Minister Kodali Nani’s comments derisive of temple customs.
In the same statement, Kimidi alleged that state Chief Secretary L.V. Subramanyam “was abruptly and disgracefully removed (earlier this month) because the official said non-Hindus working in TTD would be probed”.
According to one Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) official, Jagan — a Christian by belief — has never signed the declaration. Rules also prohibit non-Hindus from being employed with the TTD, the trust that runs the famed temple. Subramanyam had earlier stated that surprise checks would be held at the residences of employees suspected to be following Christianity and other religions.
Also read: With practical lessons & Rs 12,000 crore, Jagan plans big govt school shift to English medium
TDP overtaking BJP in matters of Hindu faith
Since Jagan came to power in May, the opposition TDP and BJP’s criticism of several government decisions has centred on his religious affiliation. While in August, the government moved to provide Rs 5,000 per month honorarium to pastors, Jagan this week hiked the financial assistance to poor Christians visiting Biblical places such as Jerusalem to Rs 60,000 from Rs 40,000. Similar assistance has been approved for Haj pilgrims too.
“AP Govt is dividing the Andhra people on religious lines. This is a clear case of state-sponsored religious conversion. BJP strongly condemns this move of YCP,” the Andhra Pradesh BJP unit had tweeted in September.
AP Govt is dividing the Andhra people on religious lines
Conducting survey to find pastors using Village volunteers & spending public money on payment to pastors is deplorable act
This is a clear case of state sponsored religious conversion
BJP strongly condemn this move of YCP pic.twitter.com/sT7900JCFP
— BJP ANDHRA PRADESH (@BJP4Andhra) September 3, 2019
Both parties are yet to react to Tuesday’s Jerusalem order but an observation of the TDP and BJP’s tweets of the last one week reveals an interesting drift in the priority of issues of the two parties.
While the state BJP was tweeting on Modi government achievements in Swachh Bharat, Make In India and free NEFT etc. initiatives, TDP tweets in the same period included a picture of a Nellore temple figurine painted in YSRCP colours and a video clip about the sanctity of Tirupati temple, the Jagan family’s religion and his refusal of declaration and the YSRCP minister’s sarcastic take on temple customs.
Some of the TDP’s anti-Hindu accusations against Jagan have been relatively discreet — through messages spread by party leaders and spokespersons through WhatsApp. Perhaps the most bizarre is a message “Mission – Christian AP”. It alleges that Jagan’s move to make English medium compulsory is so that he can hire Anglo-Indian teachers who can spread Christianity “and create a new generation of church followers and also a permanent (YSRCP) vote bank for next few decades”.
It is known that Jagan has a very strong base among the Christians and the SCs — many who supposedly follow Christianity.
The TDP, however, argues that its focus on Hindu issues aren’t similar to the approach of the BJP.
“Entering with footwear, raising slogans like Jai Jagan at the Tirupati temple premises and other acts show their total disregard for a sacred place. We are only asking Jagan to desist from such irreverence and sign the declaration respecting other faiths and traditions,” said Panchumarthi Anuradha, TDP spokesperson.
“We, in the TDP, respect all religions unlike the YSRCP, which manipulates religion to advance its vote bank agenda,” Anuradha added.
“Neither are we advancing Hindutva agenda like the BJP. We are only appealing to Jagan and his people to respect Hindu faith and customs.”
Analysts say the strategy may not really help the TDP. “Naidu has no love for BJP nor could his policy ever be Hindutva,” Dr Ch. Shankar Rao, a political analyst, said.
“The TDP’s seemingly pro-Hindu stand is only to gain advantage from some of Jagan’s supposedly pro-Christian decisions. If Naidu could allure the BJP in this process, he regains a powerful friend, sooner or later, to deal with formidable Jagan.”
Also read: Minister clarifies Jagan’s controversial order on media — ‘it’s not an attempt to control’
TDP strategy to brand Jagan anti-Hindu, says YSRCP
The ruling party, though, is ridiculing the TDP’s campaign, accusing Naidu of appropriating the BJP’s agenda in the state.
“It is obvious that Jagan has trust in the Tirupati deity, which is why he pays obeisance there. Signing the declaration or not would not alter his inner faith,” said Ambati Rambabu, a prominent YSRCP MLA.
“Why is the TDP creating fresh ruckus over the matter when Jagan visited the temple even before he was CM? The TDP is unnecessarily politicising such issues to brand him as anti-Hindu,” Rambabu added.
“Naidu has not recovered from the election shock and his party, in confusion, is eager to latch on to any issue. It is preposterous to allege that English-medium schools are to spread Christianity.”
Since there are no real issues to corner Jagan, Naidu has now borrowed the BJP’s Hindutva agenda to target the CM and portray him as anti-Hindu,” said Rambabu, who is also the YSRCP spokesperson. “Naidu wishes to polarise Hindu votes but people know that CM Jagan works in the interest of all religions, all sections of the society.”
Also read: Jagan hit CM Naidu for splurging crores of public money on house. Now he’s doing the same
BJP not impressed by Naidu’s overtures
A BJP functionary in the state expressed surprise over the TDP’s new-found affection for Hindu issues.
“This is the first time that the TDP has launched a sustained attack on a rival party based on religion, that too while advocating Hindu sentiments,” the BJP leader said. “However, some of their criticism like Jagan’s temple entry declaration is on flimsy grounds. Andhra people are not crazy about religion and harping on these issues would not really help electorally here. Continuing like this, Naidu runs the risk of alienating some of his Muslim and other votes.”
The party is also not enthused by Naidu’s overtures.
P.V.N. Madhav, a BJP MLC said the TDP is in a desperate situation in the state, where it ruled till six months ago. Post the simultaneous general and assembly polls, several TDP leaders including a few sitting MPs jumped to the BJP.
“Struggling to keep his stock intact and stay relevant, Naidu has now resorted to pro-Hindu issues. But such a phoney stand would not help him since as CM he too did things like demolition of temples in Vijayawada for Krishna pushkaram (a Kumbh mela-like event) works. The state-sponsored Jerusalem tour advertisements on APSRTC bus tickets at Tirupati were also from Naidu’s time,” Madhav said referring to the controversy over allegations of proselytisation in Tirupati after Jagan became CM.
“Both Naidu and Jagan have proved to be anti-Hindu and anti-Telugu,” the BJP leader said.
Naidu’s TDP had exited the NDA in March 2018 over the issue of Special Category Status to Andhra Pradesh, claiming the state was suffering financially because of bifurcation.
Last month, in a party workers meet in Vizag, Naidu had reportedly regretted having confronted the BJP leadership for sake of the state and suffering electorally.
But reiterating BJP leader Amit Shah’s election-time remarks that “the NDA doors are permanently closed for opportunist Naidu”, state BJP Chief Kanna Lakshminarayana said an alliance with Naidu is a closed chapter.
“It seems Naidu’s main agenda is to stem BJP’s growth in AP. As we are emerging strong, he is again makings such statements,” Kanna had said last month.
Naidu, who strived to form a league of non-BJP parties and had launched a scathing attack on the Modi-Shah duo during the Lok Sabha elections, had tweeted greetings on their birthdays recently. The TDP has also supported the Modi government’s decision to repeal Article 370 for Jammu and Kashmir.
“Naidu is trying his best not to placate the BJP leadership. He did not even condemn the confinement of his friend NCP’s Farooq Abdullah in Srinagar,” Madhav said. “But as of now, there is no such foreseeable situation (of joining hands with TDP). We have our firm plans to grow on our own in the state.”
Also read: Jagan govt dumps Naidu project to develop Singapore-like financial hub in Amaravati
BJP is a fwo faced party. It is toppling all the non BJP governments but not the government which is acting against the Indian culture.
Total article is just to blame CBN. Without even analysing anyone of the point. Who started save temples, save AP from jagan etc it is not TDP, it is by bjp tweets handlers. TDP is in no situation to rake up and help bjp to get into it’s shoes. So just to. Please bjp and to blame CBN don’t write idiotic and stupid article that too by paid artist.
To those talking about religion from other states except AP. Please shut your mouth and it’s internal matter of our Telugu speaking people. We have all powerful people who represents TDP, BJP, YCP in state. So do not poke your nose in here.
In India you can thrive in politics only when you manipulate religious feelings of the people. Chandrababu Naidu is, no doubt, trying that option. No surprise. RSS/BJP have tried it and seem to have succeeded politically. But what about economy? That has gone awry. There is no sight of it turning around.
Yes, there is a clear agenda of Jagan and the church to use money power in conversions. They also teach the converts not to declare their new found religion officially as they will lose the reservation benefits. There is a church in every village of AP and the real population of christians is over 10%. They are cunning and covert in their conversions.
I belong to a particular faith to which I am deeply committed, but I strongly oppose any Govt trying to placate or appease the followers of any religion, be it through subsidies for Christian pilgrimages, Muslim Haj, or spending crores of rupees for religious events like Kumbh Merlas. In a secular country we also should not have bhoomi pujans for Govt inaugurals, nor should we have temples or any other religious symbols in police stations and Govt offices, or vehicles.
Secular is imposed word. This is Hindu majority country will allow Hindu rituals.
But there should be official ban on use foreign religious symbols like especially of middle East based faiths like christianity and Islam.
There may be early disappointment over CM Jagan Reddy’s work and performance. However, to target his Christian faith is unbecoming of a person of CBN’s stature in public life.
What has xian got to do with a state with 1.5 official xians. That is Hindu majority country and that state is hindu majority officially.
TDP the opportunistic party, will walk over grandmother if it thinks it wll meet its need. Cha, what a party.
Is the new found enthusiasm of Shri Chandrababu Naidu of TDP for Hinduism, or an inclination to re-join NDA, and / or to oppose the policies adopted by YSR Congress headed by Shri Jagan Mohan Reddy? In any case, having said in loose words, Shri Naidu’s statements would be taken with a pinch of salt. It was he who remained as the spirit behind the move for unity among opposition parties to oppose BJP, Shri Narendra Modi and the NDA Government, just because the Centre didn’t provided the much sought after special assistance to the State of Andhra Pradesh? It is quite surprising why Shri Naidu chose Hindutva platform to oppose YSR Congress, leaving the Congress Party with which he had a great honeymoon until the last elections. Perhaps empty coffers / stomach makes a person think twice or multiple times!
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