How Andhra Pradesh CM Jagan takes the edge off propaganda targeting him as anti-Hindu

Andhra CM's detractors, especially BJP and other Hindutva outfits, often accuse YSRCP government of being anti-Hindu.

BySNV Sudhir

Published Sep 28, 2022 | 9:00 AM Updated Sep 28, 2022 | 9:00 AM

Jagan Mohan Reddy Amit Shah

Ever since Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s uncle, YV Subba Reddy, took over the reins of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) in June 2019, he has focused on Gosamrakshana, or cow protection, and building Hindu temples, especially in areas with significant Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Backward Classes (SC, ST and BCs) populations.

The TTD is the trust that manages the second-richest and the most-visited shrine in the world, the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple.

The renewed TTD thrust on safeguarding and propagating Hindu dharma has, in a way, been acting as a counter-weight to the narrative that the BJP has built over the years that the Jagan Mohan dispensation is anti-Hindu — not least because he is a practising Christian, though his family is an eclectic mix of castes, classes and religions.

And given a spate of incidents during his regime — such as the desecration of Hindu idols in Pithapuram, the burning of a 62-year-old temple chariot in Antarvedi, the beheading of Lord Kondada Rama Swamy idols in the famous Ramatheertham temple in Vizianagaram — Jagan Mohan’s government was often been targeted by the BJP and other Hindutva groups.

Countering anti-Hindu perception

It is apparently to dispel the notion that the YSRCP government did not care for Hindu interests that the TTD has launched at least four programmes in the last three years to safeguard cows and develop indigenous bovine breeds, and also established an exclusive trust to build temples of Lord Venkateswara across the country.

Jagan Mohan Reddy and Subba Reddy

Amdhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and TTD Chairman YV Subba Reddy at Tirumala temple. (Supplied)

The cow protection programmes includeed developing goshalas at Tirupati, Tirumala and Palamaner, launching of the Gudiko Gomata campaign which had the slogan “Worship of Gomata is Equivalent to Worship of all Deities of the Hindu Sanatana Dharma”.

To spread the significance of Gopuja, TTD has also been promoting the puja by donating a cow and a calf to every temple since December 7, 2020.

TTD has also launched a programme for supporting goshala maintenance in the Telugu states by setting up two Nodal Goshalas in each district.

In October 2019, the TTD established the Sri Venkateswara Aalayala Nirmanam (SRI VANI) Trust to construct and maintain Lord Sri Venkateswara Temples at various locations across India.

What the Sri Vani Trust does

The Sri Vani Trust was constituted to construct Lord Venkateswara temples at various locations all over the country, particularly in areas with a significant presence of SCs, STs, BCs and other weaker sections who are seen as prone to religious conversions.

The funds received by this trust are also used for the renovation of old and dilapidated temples and other Dharma Pracharam, or evangelical, activities.

Since its establishment, the Sri Vani Trust has collected ₹516 crore and the TTD Board decided to build 1,342 temples in remote areas for the benefit of the SC/ST/BC and fishermen communities.

TTD also joined hands with the Samarasata Sewa Foundation, an umbrella body of several Hindu Dharmic organisations in Andhra Pradesh, to build these temples.

In the first phase, 502 temples were built, and work has begun in coordination with Samarasata Seva Foundation to build 111 temples in the second phase at a cost of ₹0 lakh for each temple.

TTD is also setting aside ₹2,000 per month for the conduct of Dhoopa and Deepa activities in these temples, besides training youth from these regions as archakas, or priests, and appointing them later in these temples.

Temples constructed under this programme have opened in Vizag, Bhubaneshwar and Amaravati, and construction is underway in Jammu, Mumbai, Seethampeta, Ulandurpeta, and Rampachdavaram.

Subba Reddy clarifies

When YV Subba Reddy was tipped to take charge as the TTD chairman in June 2019, his religious credentials too had sparked a controversy. Social media posts at that time had gone viral claiming that Subba Reddy was a Christian like his nephew Jagan Mohan.

Subba Reddy had to publicly explain that he is a staunch Hindu and not a Christian.

Though they are practising Christians, Chief Minister Jagan’s family is an eclectic mix of several castes and communities with liberal views.

Jagan Mohan Reddy at Tirumala on Tuesday offering silk clothes to Lord Venkateshwara. (twitter: CMO Andhra Pradesh)

Jagan Mohan Reddy at Tirumala on Tuesday offering silk clothes to Lord Venkateshwara. (twitter: CMO Andhra Pradesh)

Subba Reddy’s wife Swarnalatha Reddy and Jagan’s mother YS Vijayalakshmi are siblings. While Swarnalatha Reddy was married into a Hindu family, Vijayalakshmi was married into the YS family that practices Christianity.

Two maternal aunts of Jagan’s father and former chief minister, the late YS Rajasekhar Reddy, were married into Dalit families.  Jagan’s first cousin, Veronica Reddy, is married to Manchu Vishnu, son of Tollywood veteran Mohan Babu, who is a staunch Hindu. A few of Jagan’s extended family members are also married into several other Hindu communities.

Jagan’s first visit to Tirumala as chief minister to offer silk robes to the deity as part of the annual Brahmotsavams in 2020 caused a row due to the Christian faith he practices and the declaration form that has to be signed by visitors of other religions to the shrine.

It is a tradition for the chief minister of the state to offer silk robes on the Garuda Seva day of the nine-day Brahmotsavams fete at the shrine. The issue later subsided with the TTD Board exempting chief ministers from signing such a declaration form, and he has since visited the Tirumala temple multiple times.

Jagan Mohan Reddy on Tuesday visited Tirumala to offer silk clothes to Lord Venkateshwara on behalf of the State government on the first day of the annual Brahmotsavams.

Subramanian Swamy’s defence

Jagan Mohan Reddy YV Subba Reddy

Jagan Mohan Reddy and his uncle, TTD Chairman YV Subba Reddy. (Supplied)

Interestingly, when it comes to Jagan Mohan, one of the poster boys of Hindutva and senior BJP leader, Subramanian Swamy, has often come out in support of the Andhra Pradesh chief minister and his uncle Subba Reddy.

In an interview, Swamy defended Subba Reddy, stating that he is a staunch Hindu. He, in fact, went to the extent of saying that Jagan Mohan’s uncle “was more Hindu than Prime Minister Narendra Modi” himself.

He also alleged in the same interview that the attacks on Hindu temples as soon as Jagan Mohan came to power could be a conspiracy hatched by TDP chief and former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu who has been looking to gain some lost ground in Andhra Pradesh.

TDP’s Hindu pivot

While Jagan Mohan appears to have made right the skewed perception about him, TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu has, interestingly, sought to project himself as the champion of the Hindus, who constitute over 90 percent of the population of Andhra Pradesh.

In an uncharacteristic move that took many by surprise, TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu visited an ancient Lord Rama temple in a small village Ramatheertham in Vizianagaram district in January 2020 to declare that he would strive to safeguard the interests of Hindus.

His visit grabbed eyeballs as he was followed by a huge entourage, including the media.

The reason for his visit is not hard to find. Ramatheertham had grabbed the media headlines at the end of 2019 and early 2020 after some miscreants had desecrated Lord Rama’s idol.