Illustration of Jagan feeding a boy smeared with Vibhuthi kicks up a storm in Andhra Pradesh

The illustration shows Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy feeding milk to a boy who has Vibhuti on his forehead and holds a dhamarukh.

BySNV Sudhir

Published Feb 20, 2023 | 4:02 PM Updated Feb 20, 2023 | 11:02 PM

Andhra Pradesh BJP chief Somu Veeraraju along with other party leaders stage a protest demanding an apology from the YSRCP over the illustration. (Supplied)

Not a single day passes without one controversy or the other making headlines in Andhra Pradesh.

This time, an illustration shared by the ruling YSRCP on its official Twitter handle has kicked up a storm.

Incensed by the illustration, in which Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is seen feeding milk to a boy who has Vibhuti on his forehead and a dhamarukh — a power drum — in his hand, the BJP has taken the YSRCP to task, calling the image an insult to Hinduism.

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The BJP’s objections

The illustration was shared on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri with a message on the YSRCP’s official Twitter handle, which the saffron party said hurt religious sentiments.

“Ishvararadhana is to satisfy the hunger of others. Wishing the blessings of Lord Shiva on all the people of the state. Happy Mahashivratri to all the people of the state on the occasion of Shivaratri,” read the message that accompanied the illustration.

The illustration depicts a destitute boy sitting close to a temple with a bull in the background. The bull called Nandi is known as Lord Shiva’s vehicle.

BJP leaders took serious objection to the illustration, contending that it was nothing but insulting Hindus, Hinduism, and Hindu gods.

They took to Twitter and trended the hashtag #YSRCP_Insults_Mahadeva and also staged protests at some of the temples of Lord Shiva, seeking an apology from the YSRCP.

“Hindus are considered a mere vote bank. Without stopping the anti-social forces that are violating Hindu dharma, they (YSRCP leaders) are campaigning directly from the party’s official account to denigrate Lord Shiva. People are watching your ideology. The YSRCP should tender an apology,” said BJP state unit president Somu Veerraju.

He also participated in a dharna carrying enlarged copies of the illustration.

“Jagan was seen doing abhishekam to Lord Shiva before the 2019 polls eyeing the votes of Hindus. Now in power, he is trying to mock Hindus and Hindu gods. Can he do the same with Islam and Christianity? He is indulging in vote bank politics. He should apologise to Hindus,” said the BJP’s Andhra Pradesh co-in-charge Sunil Deodhar.

Also read: Jagan caught in reservation conundrum between Kapus, OBCs

The YSRCP responds

The YSRCP, which generally exercises restraint rather than becoming involved in such issues, this time reacted sharply to the criticism.

The party put out another tweet adding another caricature of Lord Shiva feeding an animal.

“Lord Shiva is omnipresent. Everything that is good is divine. Where was Shiva insulted in this?” asked the YSRCP in another tweet.

“What’s wrong in that depiction? Manava Seva ye Madhava seva, that’s what Hinduism says. In what way is it insulting the Hindu gods?” asked YSRCP MLA from Vijayawada West and former endowments minister Vellampalle Srinivas.

“I think the BJP has forgotten that at least 40 temples in and around Vijayawada were demolished by the TDP-BJP government between 2014 and 2018. During that period, a BJP leader was the endowments minister. The BJP should first apologise for the demolition of temples, not the YSRCP,” he added.

Jagan’s Christian credentials often come under criticism from his detractors, especially from the Hindutva brigade of the BJP.

However, Jagan continues to visit Tirumala and offer silk robes to the presiding deity every year during the annual Brahmotsavam.

At one point in time, Jagan not signing a declaration form about his faith in Lord Venkateswara before visiting the Tirumala temple was also a major controversy.

He often visits Sarada Peetham in Visakhapatnam to take the blessings of Swami Swaroopanandendra Saraswathy.

It is also believed the seer performed Sri Raja Syamala Yagam for Jagan to become the chief minister.