The ruling YSR Congress Party (YSCRP) in Andhra Pradesh seems to have been unnerved by the opposition parties, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Telugu Desam Party (TDP), staging protests against it over the attacks on temples in the state.
While the Y S Jaganmohan Reddy government is trying to neutralise BJP’s efforts to play up the issue by taking up temple reconstruction efforts, it is ensuring that the TDP doesn’t get any space to rake up the issue.
The latest in this controversy is the last-minute cancellation of the Dharma Parirakshana Yatra (rally for religious protection) in Tirupati yesterday (21 January) planned by the TDP, which has alleged 118 attacks on temples in the last 19 months in the state.
The TDP has also been smart in raising the issue and organising the rally in the seven state assembly segments of the Tirupati parliamentary constituency covering Chittoor and Nellore districts.
The yatra was planned to highlight the Reddy government’s failure to prevent a slew of attacks on temples and desecration of idols in them since it came to power in May 2019.
The reason for TDP to raise this is that by-elections are due for the Tirupati constituency since the YSRCP Member of Parliament from there, Balli Durga Prasad Rao, passed away in September last year.
The yatra will actually be for 10 days and will span across 700 villages in the Tirupati constituency.
Yesterday in Tirupati, TDP state president K Atchannaidu was confined to his hotel room as the state police did not allow him to step out to inaugurate the rally.
Two party MLAs — Nimmala Rama Naidu and A Satya Prasad, besides other leaders were also detained by the police.
Atchannaidu termed his detention as a move to derive “political mileage” and showed the YSRCP government had “no fear of god”.
The police also prevented a motorcycle rally that was scheduled to be taken out from Alapiri, the base of Tirumala hills, and detained about 70 TDP workers.
The TDP’s grievance is that the police had given permission for both the rallies before suddenly cancelling it and resorting to the detention of its party workers.
TDP leaders alleged that Tirupati Urban police suddenly issued a notice asking the party to not go ahead with the rally.
The principal opposition party had also planned a public meeting where the rally was scheduled to culminate.
While the YSRCP scuttled TDP’s rally using its administrative power, the BJP questioned the sudden need for the latter to organise a rally.
BJP national secretary and Andhra Pradesh co-incharge Sunil Deodhar wondered how the TDP was starting the rally to protect religion when he was “hiding” during the tough times of novel coronavirus pandemic.
Defending police move to cancel permission, Tirupati Superintendent of Police Avula Ramesh Reddy said TDP leaders “provoked religious hatred” among the people in the pilgrim city.
He said the TDP had got permission for a “peaceful walkathon” but attempted to take out a “huge bike and car rally” besides holding a public meeting.
On social media, TDP was criticised for “copying BJP ideas”, while some sought to know which religion would the party chief N Chandrababu Naidu want to protect.
M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani
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