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

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy | ANI File photo

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Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy Friday laid the foundation stone for the reconstruction of nine temples that were demolished by the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government in 2016 for road widening.

The move is being seen as Jagan’s outreach to Hindus and comes at a time when the YSRCP government has been under fire from the opposition over a series of attacks on temples in the state.

Analysts, however, say Jagan’s decision to reconstruct nine temples, worth around Rs 70 lakh, is meant to counter the TDP and other Opposition parties who have stepped up attack against the chief minister, claiming he ‘failed to protect the ‘Hindu sentiments’.

“The focus is more on highlighting how these temples were demolished under (Chandrababu) Naidu’s regime rather than on their reconstruction. That is because Naidu is portraying himself as the protector of the Hindu dharma and is being more aggressive than BJP. Naidu had openly alleged how the Chief Minister is encouraging Christianity and hurting Hindu sentiments. So to counter all of it the ruling party wants to highlight that temples were not safe under Naidu’s regime. So, in this entire issue, it is both of these political parties using religion, religious sentiments for their mileage,” senior political analyst, Professor Nageswar Rao said.

Temple politics returns, Naidu attacks ‘Christian CM’

The temple politics took centre stage in Andhra Pradesh, again, after a Lord Ram idol was vandalised at a 400-year old temple in Ramatheertham village in Vizianagaram district in December last year. What followed next was uproar by the TDP and BJP, blaming the state government for failing to stop such attacks.

The temple, which is atop a hill in the village, saw several protests and visits by political leaders after the attack. The BJP is also planning to organise a ‘rath yatra’ across the state later this month.

The state also saw two more such incidents in the first week of January – in Rajamahendravaram and Vishakapatnam. The temple in Rajamahendravaram was vandalised hours after the Chief Minister instructed the police to take stringent action against the culprits in the Ramatheertham temple incident.

In the first week of January, a Vinayaka idol was found broken in a temple in Yetigyrampeta Village. The police, however, said that the idol stood broken for a ‘long time’ and fake news was being peddled saying that the attack was recent.

Lashing out at the government’s inability to take action, Naidu said that the Chief Minister, state home minister and the Director General of Police were all ‘Christians,’ and displayed total negligence in the issue.

“I am not questioning his beliefs, I have my own. But attacks on other religions should stop. Jagan cannot continue as the CM even for a minute if he cannot stop these attacks,” Naidu said.

In September, too, both the TDP and BJP hit out at the ruling party over the attacks. The BJP and TDP are now demanding a CBI probe into the alleged attacks on temples in the last 19 months, since Jagan took over.

The government, however, sees a “larger conspiracy” behind these attacks. “Almost all the incidents happened during nights. The state government sees a larger conspiracy behind these orchestrated incidents to defame it and stoke religious sentiments in the communally peaceful state,” state government advisor Devulapalli Amar said Saturday.

Also read: TDP reaches out to BJP with a ‘Hindutva makeover’ — targets Christian Jagan Mohan Reddy

Hindu vote bank

As political opponents question the timing of Jagan government’s decision to reconstruct temples, analysts point out that the ruling party is putting in efforts to protect its ‘Hindu vote bank.’

“The party is in a tricky situation. They’re facing allegations of favouring Christianity and not being bothered about Hindus. Definitely, with these temple attacks back-to-back, any follower would be a little concerned. So, it is important for the YSRCP to save their Hindu vote bank and how they are doing it – by answering TDP’s politics,” senior political analyst Telakapalli Ravi told ThePrint.

But, that’s more of a surrender and not a “super strategy” by the party, said Ravi, adding that what the government should immediately do is to ensure that the culprits behind these attacks are behind bars.

“The government has shown no interest in taking up the probe seriously. There have been attacks on temples since 1.5 years and how many cases are solved? The government should make it a point that the culprits are behind bars within 15 days,” state BJP chief Somu Veerraju told ThePrint.

Also read: Jagan vs judiciary — a face-off which involves 100 high court orders & now a SC judge

BJP’s ‘Hindutva’ push

Chandrababu Naidu’s government has been more aggressive than the BJP in attacking the Jagan government. Ever since Jagan Reddy came to power, the BJP has been using his Christian faith to target him and his government. If these attacks intensify and if the BJP manages to successfully attack Jagan’s rule- it would slowly start gaining light as the opposition, which is Naidu’s key concern.

“Naidu must have analysed how BJP’s Hindutva politics in Telangana helped it emerge as a competition to KCR, pushing away the Congress. Fearing the same would happen here, the TDP has adopted a strategy of being more aggressive than BJP and taking the Hindutva politics route, although that’s not the party ideology,” Nageswar Rao said.

As Andhra Pradesh braces itself for bypoll in Tirupati in — which hosts the famous Venkateshwara temple — both the YSRCP and the TDP are keeping an eye on the BJP’s push in the state.

“Although the YSRCP knows that BJP is equally aggressive while attacking their government, they will not target the saffron party much due to the friendship between Jagan and the Central leadership. It is an open secret,” Ravi said.

‘Communal harmony’ committee

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister has lashed out at the opposition parties saying that they are resorting to communal politics to malign the government’s image that it earned through the successful implementation of its welfare schemes.

The government has also formed a ‘communal harmony’ committee at the state and the district level to thwart such attacks. The committee includes state DGP, state Police, District Collector, and religious leaders.

A 16-member special investigation team (SIT) was also formed Friday, headed by ACB additional director GVG Ashok Kumar, to probe the temple-related incidents which have occurred since September.

Also read: Jagan govt seals Rs 8.15 cr deal with Times Group to boost image of Andhra & its leaders

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