Tirupati row: Issue is Jaganmohan’s religion, not appointee’s

Jaganmohan Reddy, a communicant of the Church of South India, inherits the dubious legacy of his father corrupting the Tirupati administration

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Jaganmohan handling Tirupati
YS Jaganmohan Reddy at the CSI-Town Church, Pulivendula: This is a screen grab from a broadcast by his own channel Sakshi

The news of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy‘s decision to appoint YV Subba Reddy the chairman of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) and reported attack on the Wikipedia article describing the latter miss the larger point of the morality or ethics of Christians fiddling with the administration of one of the most revered places of worship of Hindus.

Why fate of Tirupati worries Hindus

It does not matter how many times the Wikipedia article was edited and by whom. The fact that Subba Reddy is Jaganmohan’s maternal uncle raises the probability that the former is as much a Christian as the latter is and his father was. But Subba Reddy denied it on Friday during his interaction with the media in the wake of the controversy over his proposed appointment as a Tirupati administrator.

A Twitter user raised the question of reciprocity over this appointment, asking whether a Church or the Vatican would appoint a Hindu as its chairman of the board. If not, he asked, why is there a need for Christian leadership of a Hindu temple.

But this controversy would have arisen regardless of the proposed appointment of Subba Reddy because nobody doubts Jaganmohan Reddy is an adherent of Christianity. On 15 April 2012, India Today had reported, “To win back Reddy community votes, Congress to make Jagan’s religion a poll issue.” Elaborating on the issue, the mainstream magazine wrote, “… the Congress leaders in Andhra Pradesh are planning to make an issue out of YSR Congress Party president YS Jaganmohan Reddy’s Christianity to woo back the Reddy community into the Congress.”

There is no doubt over the religion of Jagan’s father YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR) either or that of the chief minister’s grandfather YS Raja Reddy. YS Rajasekhara Reddy was described by news agency IANS as “born to a Christian middle-class family” on 3 September 2009.

Describing YSR’s rule in Andhra Pradesh, BR Haran wrote that very month in Vijayvaani, “With YSR’s advent in 2004, evangelical activities increased alarmingly and mass conversions were witnessed in rural areas on a large scale. His open pandering to Church and missionaries emboldened evangelists to go all out in their conversion activities. They dared focus on Hindu pilgrimage sites such as Badrachalam, Simmachalam, Srisailam, Ahobilam, Mangalagiri, Kalahasthi, and didn’t spare Tirumala-Tirupati!”

The issue with Jaganmohan

On 25 December 2014, The News Minute had reported, “YSR Congress party chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy (and) his family members joined in the prayers at CSI church at Pulivendula town in Kadapa district.” Here is the video evidence of the same (1 min 20 s onwards):

The family members are communicants (recipients of the holy communion) of the Church of South India (Diocese of Rayalaseema).

They attend the CSI-Town Church, Pulivendula, the interiors of which are seen in the video above.

Even a ‘secular’ N Chandrababu Naidu had accused “YSR of mismanagement of TTD’s affairs and demanded the dissolution of the TTD Board” in 2009, raising the question how fair the son of the then chief minister would be in handling the holy shrines of Hindus.

Haran wrote about YSR’s handling of Tirupati thus: “TTD was always in the news for all the wrong reasons, from appointment of chairman (once his own step-brother and another time a liquor baron), to mismanagement, to lack of transparency, to abuse of power, to shortages of jewels and gold coins, to sacrilege of Tirumala by evangelical activities and antisocial elements. The total abuse of TTD was attributed only to YSR…”

How TTD is mandated to function, how it isn’t

The TTD is a conglomeration of temples, brought under the First Schedule 2 of Act 30 of 1987. The Board of Trustees is constituted by members appointed by the government.

The executive officer is the chief executive of the TTD. He is assisted by two joint executive officers, chief vigilance and security officer, conservator of forests, financial advisor and chief accounts officer, and chief engineer. Besides, there are officials to look after the different branches of administration.

The TTD maintains 12 temples and their sub-shrines. It employs about 14,000 persons.

TTD is supposed to serve pilgrims who visit Tirumala and Tirupati. It provides facilities to make their pilgrimage a unique and rewarding spiritual experience. It also works towards preserving the serenity and sanctity of the sacred Tirumala-Tirupati area, informs the website of the body.

The question is why the chief minister, despite the mandate that the Andhra Pradesh government would run the administration of the TTD, should appoint his relatives for the job. As in the case of his father, the chances of more Christians sneaking into the administration of the richest Hindu temple and religious board are high. This gives Hindus reason enough to worry, helped in no measure by a host of corruption charges against Jagan.

The question that would finally arise is, of course, why a secular state must manage temples when no Indian government (Centre or State) manages mosques, churches, gurdwaras, pagodas, synagogues, etc. The ball is now in the Centre’s court. Let’s hope Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes this issue up in this term.