Electoral gains are on the party’s agenda as they drum up religious fervour against the chief minister
There has been a sudden spurt in the Hindutva activities in Andhra Pradesh, a state which has never allowed frivolous sentiments of any religion to tear its secular fabric.
Now, the Hindutva forces have started alleging undue preference to Christianity by the state government and are attributing this to YSRC government led by YS Jaganmohan Reddy.
To highlight the threat to Hindu religion under YS Jaganmohan Reddy regime, a Hindu conclave is being planned in Vijayawada in October.
The Hindu religious commotion has revolved around two important hill shrines in the state namely Tirumala and Srisailam, and Jagan's alleged attitude towards Hindu traditions.
The Hindutva forces complain that these temples have become dens for members of other religions. This has led to a public warning by the state chief secretary Dr LV Subramanyam last week.
The chief secretary asked the members of non-Hindu communities to voluntarily opt out of the temple administration or face action.
The target of this vociferous campaign is none other than chief minister Jaganmohan Reddy, a Christian. Unable to take on Jagan politically, the BJP has chosen his religion as the ideal tool to foment trouble for him.
The saffron party charges that state's patronage has emboldened the Christians to intensify evangelical activities in Tirumala and other places.
A BJP source told The Lede that the proposed conclave of Hindu supporters will highlight how Jagan’s 100 days has helped the spread of Christianity in the state.
Fake news also is being spread to buttress their charge. A week ago, a picture of a small building constructed in the forest near Tirumala went viral as a Church.
A small metal post erected on top of the building was shown as the Cross. The message is that this has happened because of Jagan's support.
Finally, a local TV channel debunked the campaign by showing the building as a structure constructed by the forest conservation wing of TTD and the pole was not the Cross and it meant to support the CCTV cameras.
Any number of trips to Hindu temples and his close association with the head of Sarada Petham of Vizag, Swami Sampoorananda Saraswati, could not conceal Jagan’s Christian identity, as far as the saffronists were concerned.
Swamiji’s public avowal that no force would topple Jagan (and his Telangana counterpart KCR) in the next 20 years has not given any protection for the chief minister from being targeted as Christian.
The BJP which is rejuvenated by the entry of upper caste and rich politicians from opposition parties looks impatient and does not want to wait for its turn in conventional politics of the state.
To enthuse the state BJP leaders, in July, the party’s national general secretary Ram Madhav had announced that the BJP honeymoon with Jagan was over.
Many see a direct link between BJP's anti-Christian campaign and Ram Madhav's statement.
The state BJP cried foul when the state government announced an honorarium of Rs 5000 per month to pastors a couple of days ago and said it was not acceptable.
Party state general secretary Lanka Dinakar took objection to the move stating that why such a facility was not made available to Hindu priests.
He asked Jagan's government to first feed cows in Goshalas across the state.
Recalling how Jagan went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem soon after assuming charge as chief minister, Dinakar said the travel bill amounting to USD 30,000 was footed by the state through the GO No 1737, even though Jagan termed the trip as private.
BJP national secretary Sunil Deodhar, in a tweet, termed the move to disburse honorarium to pastors as blasphemous.
Similarly, the BJP has also opposed a move proposed to take away the unused temple lands in order to distribute them to 25 lakh landless poor next Ugadi (Telugu New Year) day.
In another instance, in mid-August, BJP supporters and a couple of Hindu religious organizations raised an objection to allowing the Muslims to participate in the auction for shops near the temple in Srisailam.
They gave a call 'Chalo Srisailam' to Hindus to stage a protest at the temple against what they termed an attempt by Jagan’s government to dilute the spirit of Hindu shrines.
The supporters of BJP even found fault with Jagan's refusal to light the lamp during his recent US visit though YSRC clarified that the protocol would not allow the traditional lamp lighting ceremony in the US.
The other instance when Jagan's preference for Christianity was called into question was the printing of ads related to Jerusalem Pilgrimage program on the backside of tickets of RTC (Road Transport Corporation) buses plying to Tirumala shrine.
Though the ad was issued by the government itself, the RTC had to place the stores-in-charge under suspension to mollify the restive cadre of BJP.
It is clear now that the BJP has unleashed a two-pronged strategy in Andhra Pradesh: destabilising Naidu’s opposition party with defections and, mobilising Hindutva forces against Jagan’s Christian identity.
Can Jagan, who is still facing trial in CBI cases for his disproportionate assets, fight back?