BJP, TDP play temple run, the Andhra version
- Almost 30 temples have been demolished in Andhra Pradesh
- They have been demolished to widen roads in certain parts of the state
- BJP was furious as the temples had been demolished without proper procedure
- There were also no promises about their reconstruction
- How the BJP and TDP clashed due to this
- Damage control by CM Chandrababu Naidu
When it comes to temples, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) becomes the natural leader to espouse their cause. And BJP's pet cause, made the love-hate relationship between the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners in Andhra Pradesh, the BJP and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), take a 'left' turn, as everything between them didn't seem 'right'.
The differences between the parties manifested almost in a street brawl that led to cracks getting exposed up the ranks, though the leadership of the TDP has downplayed the rancour between the partners.
The demolition of over 30 temples of different sizes with different presiding deities on the pretext of widening the road in Vijayawada for Krishna Pushkarams has widened the chasm between the BJP and the TDP.
The vehement opposition against the demolitions, lead by BJP leaders and some religious leaders, obviously triggered a turf war between the TDP MP from Vijayawada Kesineni Srinivas aka Nani and the BJP MP from Narasapuram in the neighbouring West Godavari district, Gokaraju Ganga Raju.
But it did not stop there. Rather, it all started there. And the news of this clash reached the ears of the BJP top brass at the Centre.
Irked by this, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu has taken steps to ensure that the bickering, between the rank and file of the BJP and the TDP, is not fomented any further.
But, the embers of the intemperate comments by BJP leaders on the TDP government in the state and the acerbic remarks by TDP leaders against the Union government on the Special Category Status and funds to the truncated state of Andhra Pradesh, are still simmering.
Against this volatile background, the spurt in trading of charges between the two allies of the NDA suddenly made it seem that the unity has moved to its precipice.
It all started when some BJP leaders and Siva Swamy, head of a Saiva Kshetram, objected to the "demolition of temples without observing any procedures prescribed by the agama sastram".
MP Nani alleged that some Congress leaders, who crossed over to the BJP, are actually trying to embarrass the TDP.
"The chief minister is painstakingly working overtime to ensure the development of Vijayawada city at a cost of Rs. 4,000 crore on multiple projects, while some leaders who have nothing to do with the city are creating hurdles. The chief minister is well aware of the religious sentiments of the people. He knows which caste and which religion need to be protected and unnecessarily does not cast aspersions that might hamper development," said Kesineni Nani.
He also sought to know why an MP who was elected from some other constituency was trying to poke his nose into Vijayawada's development.
Nani's observation that the MP had sponsored a person, who left Vijayawada and eventually established an 'ashram' elsewhere and masquerading as a swamiji, was also passing disparaging remarks triggering a big fight between the BJP and the TDP.
Former minister and BJP leader Kanna Lakshminarayana told Catch that the officials were trying to remove a goshala (cowshed) and extend the road on one side. Road widening doesn't mean removing constructions only one side of it, but widening it evenly on both sides. "There is a vested interest in not touching the other side of the road. How can they demolish the temples without following any procedure?"
TDP MLC Buddha Venkanna has a house on the side of the road that has been deliberately left untouched by the officials. He said that even in Guntur some five temples were demolished, but nobody made an issue out of it.
Another BJP MLC Somu Veerraju said that the religious sentiments of people were hurt by the demolition of the temples. He demanded that the temples should be rebuilt strictly adhering to the principles laid down by 'agama sastra'.
While the BJP cadres are under the impression that the MP and the officials can't ride a roughshod on all and bulldoze the temples, the TDP leaders are questioning as to why the BJP was causing so much trouble for nothing. Clearly, the BJP's agenda of asserting its position is more than evident in the episode.
Sensing trouble, the CM lost no time in constituting a five-minister committee, in which ministers representing the BJP were included. Especially, the Endowments Minister Manikyala Rao had to bear the brunt, for the BJP had mounted pressure on him to oppose the move of razing the temples.
They sought to know if Manikyala Rao was aware of the decision to demolish the temples.
Meanwhile, Narasapuram MP Ganga Raju (BJP) organised a large meet of Hindu gurus and religious leaders. One Kmalananda Bharati Swamy wanted to know why the BJP was soft-pedaling with the TDP. Siva Swamy launched a diatribe in a fiery tone against Kesineni Nani as several other swamijis cried foul over the demolition of the temples.
But, Chandrababu Naidu pulled a fast one on the BJP by managing to subside the issue, at least on the face of it, with an assurance to the BJP leaders that the temples would be reconstructed under the guidance of 'agama sastra'.
He also cleverly took the necessary care not to camouflage his secular side in the wake of the controversy over the temples.
The CM instructed officials to act only after securing the permission of the "highest authority in the state" when it comes to dealing with places of worship - temples, mosques and churches.
Naidu was religiously and politically correct while assessing the damage and also controlling the same.
By placating the frayed tempers of a section of the BJP leadership by promises of rebuilding the temples, Naidu has contained his enemies for now. But, will the Andhra Pradesh version of Temple Run ever end?