In the last one year, there has been an unprecedented assault on Hindu temples in Jagan Mohan Reddy ruled Andhra Pradesh. The Hindus of the state were mostly silent over the increasing assault on Hindu temples by the Christian missionaries- most of whom have been supported by the state since Jagan came to power. However, in the last few weeks, there has been a popular uprising among the Hindu community against the destruction of temples and this has nudged the opposition, Chandrababu Naidu, as well as the Pawan Kalyan, led Jan Sena party, to take an increasingly Hindu-friendly stance.
Last week when a 400-year-old Bhagwan Ram statue was destroyed at Ramatheertham in Vizianagaram, Naidu came down heavily on the Jagan government. “One should not show such religious intolerance. The slogan Jai Sri Ram is resounding in Ayodhya at present. The Lord Rama temple at Ramatheertham has always been held in high regard in Andhra. In such a temple, miscreants beheaded the Rama statue, but the government is not taking any steps to catch the culprits,’’ Naidu said.
Pawan Kalyan, the popular actor turned politician and the President of the Jana Sena said that while Ram Temple is being built in Ayodhya, in Andhra Bhagwan Ram’s idol is being persecuted.
On the other hand, the Jagan government has allocated 70 lakh rupees from the treasury to reconstruct the Hindu temples destroyed during Naidu government, to highlight that temple destruction was very normal in Andhra Pradesh during the previous regime, too.
Naidu is trying to regain the lost voter base by taking the side of Hindus. He said that the Chief Minister, Home Minister, and the police chief all are “Christians” and they have shown negligence towards the safety of Hindu places of worship. “CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is a betrayer of Hindus,’’ Naidu alleged.
Naidu is also afraid that BJP would gobble up his voter base as it did in Telangana with Congress’s voter base. The Reddy community, which used to vote for the Congress party, has rallied behind Jagan led YSRCP, and he has the support of the Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes, and minorities, too. Naidu is left with only Kamma voter base, the community to which he belongs.
Therefore, to protect the turf among the Kamma community and make inroads in backward castes of Hindus, Naidu is playing Hindu-hardliner card. “Chandrababu Naidu is using BJP’s tactics to keep his flock together and also counter the BJP. He has been scaling up Hindutva politics with each success episode of BJP in Telangana. If the BJP intensifies its powerful politics of polarisation, it will be easier to draw TDP support base into its fold rather than YSRCP support base which is solidly behind YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. If that happens, BJP will replace TDP in Andhra just as it has done so in Telangana by elbowing out the Congress,” says political scientist Prof K Nageshwara Rao.
The protest by the Hindu community against the destruction of temples has woken up the Jagan government, as well as, the opposition leaders like Naidu towards the feeling of the majority community. Otherwise, the majority of the political communities just kept pandering to the religious sentiments of the minority community and allocated money to their religious figures from the state treasury.