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Why BJP, TDP are making ‘Christian CM’ Jagan Reddy’s faith a political flashpoint in Andhra

Since May 2019, when Jagan Reddy took over as CM, he and his government have been under constant attack for allegedly turning a blind eye to 'threat to Hinduism' in Andhra.

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Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy, under attack from the BJP and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) for “turning a blind eye to threats to Hinduism” and for allegedly encouraging “Christian conversion”, got support from unexpected quarters Wednesday — BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, a vocal proponent of the Hindutva cause. 

Emerging from a meeting with Jagan at the CM’s Office, Swamy told reporters: “Whether Mr Jagan is a Christian or not is no concern to us under the Constitution. If he is working against Hindu interests, please tell me how. Just propaganda is not accepted.”

Swamy was in Tirupati to sign an affidavit to file a defamation case against Telugu daily Andhrajyothi, which reported that the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) website was displaying Jesus Christ’s ideas and photos. “Probably, Andhrajyothi thinks they have (TDP chief) Chandrababu Naidu’s support but he himself has no one’s support. You saw that in elections,” said Swamy, who visited Jagan for a courtesy call. 

Swamy’s support to Jagan, a practising Christian, has come at a time when the BJP and the TDP have been training their guns at him. 

Last week, the BJP attacked the government with the allegation that a crucifix was being built on a hill close to a Hindu religious place at Edlapadu in Guntur district. Senior BJP leader Vishnuvardhan Reddy claimed a “Christian conversion mafia” was encroaching on a Hindu religious place and there was “no place for Hindus” in Andhra Pradesh under the Reddy government. 

The district administration later clarified that the cross was being built on a different hill, almost a kilometre away from the Hindu religious place.

Since May 2019, when Jagan Reddy took over as chief minister, he and his government have been under constant attack for allegedly turning a blind eye to the “threat” to Hinduism in the state. Since September last year, the state has witnessed at least 20 incidents of “temple attacks” — where idols were allegedly vandalised, temple property stolen, and a chariot set on fire. 

The BJP and the TDP have alleged that, under Jagan Reddy’s rule, temples are desecrated, and Hindu sentiments need to be protected.

In January, TDP chief Naidu said the state is being ruled by a “Christian CM”, and noted that even the Director General of Police (DGP) is Christian. They have their “personal faiths”, but the CM cannot continue in his position if he is not able to stop the temple attacks, he added

Naidu lashed out at the CM for allegedly encouraging religious conversions by misusing his official position. Meanwhile, actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan has accused Jagan of encouraging religious conversions, and carrying out “aggressive baptism” even before he took over.

These allegations are nothing new for Jagan and his family, who practise their faith openly but balk at labels. The same charges stalked Jagan’s father, the late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, during his tenure as CM, but they don’t appear to have dented their popularity, as witnessed during last month’s panchayat polls.

For Jagan’s YSR Congress Party, the BJP’s bid to rake up his faith is just another application of the party’s usual narrative, and they doubt it will work in Andhra Pradesh. Even analysts poke holes in this line of attack, noting that the kind of massive victory Jagan scripted in 2019 couldn’t have been delivered by Christians and Reddys alone.

Also Read: As temple politics hits Andhra, Jagan lays foundation stone for reconstruction of 9 temples


Jagan’s family is believed to have taken up Christianity during the British era, when his great-grandfather was reportedly influenced by missionaries from the UK.

His mother Vijayamma is always seen holding the Bible — be it at his swearing-in ceremony or when Jagan was taken to jail for his alleged involvement in a disproportionate assets case. Jagan’s sister Y.S. Sharmila is married to a well-known evangelist, Brother Anil. 

In many of the rows surrounding Jagan and YSR’s chief ministerial tenures, their faith has been dragged up.

One of the major controversies from YSR’s tenure as CM was stoked by a claim that the Andhra government plans to build a church atop the Tirumala Hills — a sacred site for Hindus. The Andhra government had denied the claim.

In September 2019, Jagan faced flak from the opposition after announcing a monthly honorarium for pastors. The YSR Congress Party government subsequently clarified that similar benefits were being given to Muslim clerics and Hindu priests too. 

There was another controversy when the government hiked financial assistance for pilgrims to the Haj and Jerusalem, a city considered sacred by Muslims, Christians and Jews. The opposition alleged that the government was using money from the state exchequer to benefit Christians. But such schemes were introduced in 2013 under the then Congress government and continued under Naidu too

The BJP claims the Jagan government has a general disdain for Hindus. “The response of the state government was lethargic when temples were attacked. Ministers insulted Hindus saying ‘will lord Hanuman get hurt if someone broke his hand? The State Endowment Minister emphasised on protecting churches & mosques but didn’t react with sincerity on temple attack issues,” BJP state general secretary Vishnu Vardhan Reddy told ThePrint.

The opposition has criticised the fact that state police has named TDP and BJP activists in connection with the temple attacks, most of them for spreading ‘false information’ on social media.

Pattabi Ram of the TDP said the Reddy government scrapped Naidu’s scheme, Divya Darshanam, which was launched in 2017 to provide free pilgrimage to famous temples for the poor. Official sources, however, told ThePrint that the scheme was discontinued in 2018 itself following complaints of mismanagement.

Also Read: 10 lessons from Jagan Mohan Reddy’s campaign for Rahul Gandhi

‘BJP’s polarisation politics’

Both Jagan and YSR have publicly lashed out at attempts to put them into boxes on the basis of their religion and caste.

According to an article in India Today, YSR once said in the assembly of united Andhra Pradesh, “It is unfair to restrict our family to a straitjacketed identity, be it Christian, Hindu or the Reddy community. We have inter-faith and inter-caste marriages in our family.”

Jagan struck a similar note in December 2019. “The opposition is unable to digest the good governance being done by our government, and is making random accusations,” he said. “They are talking about my religion and caste too. It upsets me to hear such remarks. I want to state on this platform that humanity is my religion, and fulfilling promises is my caste.”

In his public appearances, the chief minister appears to hold true to his words. Jagan is a regular visitor to the famous Tirumala temple and pays frequent visits to seers and religious heads.

Soon after he won the 2019 assembly elections, he visited the Tirumala temple. Right after he took over as CM, he visited seer Swaroopananda Swamy and sought his blessings. The spiritual guru is said to have set the muhurtham (auspicious time) for Jagan’s swearing-in ceremony too.

On the stage where Jagan took oath as CM, heads of all religions were present. Amid the ‘temple attack’ controversy in Andhra, the CM laid the foundation stone for the reconstruction of nine temples that were demolished by the erstwhile TDP government in 2016 for road widening. 

Sources in the YSRCP told ThePrint that the CM has given his nod to allot land for the construction of a Vedic school near Tirupati International Airport.

“This whole allegation of religious conversion is baseless. Democracy gives people the freedom to practise any religion they want. It’s not that conversions are more in AP, it’s like any other place,” said YSRCP MLA Abbaya Chowdary. 

“If our CM favoured a particular community, why would he include people from all communities in his cabinet or give them MLA tickets? The BJP thinks it’s the sole protector of Hindus. Now, the TDP has joined them. They have nothing substantial to counter the government. So, this route is left for them,” Chowdary added. 

While the opposition parties have been raising the pitch over “Christian conversions” and attacks on the Hindu faith, it doesn’t seem to be sticking to Jagan or his YSR Congress Party politically so far. The YSRCP swept panchayat elections last month.  

“This is Andhra Pradesh, not Uttar Pradesh, that religious politics will influence people. Our CM’s focus had always been that people below poverty line, regardless of their religion or community, benefit from our welfare schemes. In 20 months, the government has spent Rs 80,000 crore on welfare schemes,” said YSRCP national spokesperson K. Ravi Chandra Reddy.

“There is a lot of negative sentiment against the BJP because it promised special category status but didn’t fulfil it and also because of the privatisation of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, which is the pride of Andhra people,” he added. “So, they have to divert attention of the people. TDP is taking the same line because Naidu wants to warm up to the BJP.”

The TDP and the BJP were allies until 2018, when the former split ranks over the special category issue.

Another YSRCP spokesperson, Rajasekhara Reddy, added, “Whenever the BJP is involved — it is more of religion-based politics and nothing on development. The saffron party had good relations with Naidu up until 2018. During his tenure too, temples were demolished. Why did the BJP not make any noise at that time? People have rejected their religion-based politics. Panchayat poll results are enough proof.”

‘BJP doesn’t have strong base in Andhra’

According to the 2011 Census, Christians account for 1.5 per cent of the total population of Andhra Pradesh while Hindus comprise over 88 per cent. However, these figures don’t factor in the state’s bifurcation in 2019.

Speaking to ThePrint, political expert Amarnath Kosuri said “religion issues were raked up during YSR’s time also but they never dominated the entire political discourse”.

“YSR never allowed Christianity to interfere with his public affairs. He didn’t visit the church frequently but took a holiday during Christmas. He visited Tirumala frequently, even before he became the CM,” he added.

According to political analyst Suresh Alapati, any state where the BJP tries to make inroads, religionbased politics is expected. “Andhra Pradesh is no exception. Moreover, there is a Christian CM at the helm of affairs,” he said.

Added Professor Haragopal, a political expert, “The BJP does not have a strong base in Andhra and they have to counter the CM. How else would they do it? They cannot counter much on the basis of development. Jagan is a practising Christian. He won with a huge mandate in assembly polls . There cannot be only Christians or Reddys voting for him.”

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: ‘CM Jagan wants everyone to become Christian’ — Andhra BJP bats for anti-conversion law


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  1. I know of atleast one case where a hindu family was given land in Tirupati after converting to Christianity.
    He may not be doing it outrightly but he is doing it covertly

    • Dont spread communalism, their is no proof and people are happy with his regime. Look at other countries where Indians by and large occupy high positions in the goverment are they all supporting conversions just because they are Hindu, No.

      • There is goondaism in his christian authoritative regime and so all of the people will paste a fake happy smile on their faces. Who will be happy if their religion is being targetted by desecration of their places of worship, by constant badgering of conversion mafia except ofcourse the christians? In other countries, Hindus are very few in numbers and there is no use converting them and spoiiling their name if the missionaries are do not want a bad name. India is another deal due to the huge population and the bribes and fake healing camps the christians do and it is worth being criticised here as they still get the numbers.

    • Yes. He is doing it covertly and his followers are doing overtly. and what about that cross on some other hill? are not all the 7 hills for Lord Venkateshwara? Isn’t that why he is called Lord of the seven hills?

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