VIJAYAWADA: Protection of Hindu religion has become the urgent need of the hour for both Opposition and ruling parties in Andhra Pradesh, obviously as they are trying to draw in more votes from rival sides in the upcoming local body polls.
The Telugu Desam is going all-out to expose the “failures” of the YSR Congress government in relation to the series of attacks on temples in recent times as also other issues of concern to the majority community. The BJP, the main proponent of Hindutva, woke up late and is, along with alliance partner Jana Sena, is trying to put the government on the mat on these issues.
The YSRC initially seemed banking on its welfare schemes to woo votes to its side, but changed strategy later and positioned itself in retaliatory track. It highlighted instances of temple demolitions during the term of the Telugu Desam government.
Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy announced his decision to reconstruct such demolished temples and swiftly laid the foundation stones for some such works, thereby trying to avoid ceding ground to the Opposition and emerging as the more credible protector of Hindu shrines in the state.
The Telugu Desam had started its protests against attacks and desecration of temples six months ago and sought to flare up the Hindutva sentiments after the Antarvedi temple chariot burning incident. The TD tried to project itself as being one up to the BJP’s upholding of the Hindutva cause.
The TD did not leave any stone unturned to portray itself as the main Hindutva champion. In a flurry, it organised protests against simple, minor and major incidents. The party that lost power in the 2019 elections and fared badly in the Lok Sabha polls too is keen on winning maximum support from the majority community. It sees religion as an effective stick to beat the Chief Minister with.
Senior political analysts say that, in the beginning, the YSRC did not take the Hindu religious issues raised by the TD seriously. Later, it realised that this could hurt the ruling party. The quickly started a damage control exercise. The CM allotted `70 crore as special fund for the Durga temple development; this being the first such push for reconstruction of demolished temples.
The CM laid the foundation stone for an Ambedkar memorial park via online, seen as another major step to please a strong Hindu segment of the population. Last week, the CM laid the laid foundation for the re-construction works and had darshan at the Durga temple in traditional attire, seeking to send out the right signals to the majority community.
Analysts point out that the campaign for the local body elections would normally be held by raising local issues. But, the TD, BJP and Jana Sena are hoping to open a more formidable front and grab more votes by way of working the people’s mind on religious issues. To match with this, the ruling YSRC is also in high action mode.
Ministers Botsa Satyanarayana and Vellampalli Srinivas Rao said the government has initiated new steps to protect temples. As per primary investigation, the same tool was used in three temple attacks; this strengthening the feeling that there was a conspiracy to defame the government. They said the culprits will soon be identified and arrested. “The people of AP will not get carried away by baseless allegations,” the ministers said, and expressed the hope the YSRC will win the local bodies polls hands down by virtue of the state government’s push for welfare schemes.
KILLING TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE
The Telugu Desam is aggressively organising protests against the attacks on Hindu temples and several other related issues concerning the majority community, with the twin objective of putting the Jagan government on the defensive and outwitting the pro-Hindutva BJP.
The TD is leaving no stone unturned in its push to emerge as the main champion of the Hindu cause in Andhra Pradesh. The party started its protests by raising the issue of other religions’ propaganda vis-à-vis the APSRTC bus tickets for Tirumala, and carried it forward by protesting against the death of cows at the Tadepalli cow protection centre.
From this issue, the TD quickly moved on to the issue of allocation of shops in Srisailam temple to non-Hindus, and then to the airing of Christian songs from the TTD website.
The party also riled against publishing of material of other religions in the Gita Amurtalahari magazine of the TTD. The BJP was found napping. It woke up late and found the TD has already hijacked the pet saffron cause from them. Also, it was the TD that responded first in the Ramateertham idol damage issue.
TD was also quick to protest against the offering of holy clothes to the deity by chief minister Jagan at Tirumala without signing a customary declaration. The TD raised a furore over the singing of Christian songs at the Raja Venkatrama Raya Kala Mandir atop the holy Annavaram hill.
The TD moved fast and caught on the government decision to use 3,286 acres of temple lands for is housing scheme for the poor. The TD was in the forefront of the propaganda against use of Cross at the Tirupati SVIMS hospital. The party also raised its voice against the increase in Alipiri toll charges. It found fault with the use of green paint for the First Ghat Road in Tirumala, and opposed the auctioning of 23 properties of TTD.
The TD raised its voice against the alleged misinterpretation of Ramayana in the TTD monthly magazine, as also inclusion of Christian propaganda material in TTD Sapthagiri books.
The Telugu Desam lodged a complaint with Governor Biswabhushan Harichandan, saying the attacks on temples were a violation of Articles 25 and 26 of the Indian Constitution, and it raised an accusing finger against the YSRC government. A majority of TD leaders participated in the party’s campaigns on these issues in 13 districts. What they essentially tried to hammer home was that there is a serious threat to Hindu religion under the governance of YSRC led by Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy. They alleged that several officials in key posts in the AP government now were Christians.