Christian Trustee in Temple Board?
         Date: 04-May-2018
The recent appointment of Payakaraopet’s MLA Anitha, who claims to be a Christian, as the member of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) Board has evoked much criticism and anger from various quarters
 
Sateesh Batchu, Andhra Pradesh


 
 
 
While it is a fact that Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) board appointments are made as per the whims of the ruling political party in the State, Andhra Pradesh is witnessing an unprecedented uproar in the recent appointments.
 
Even before the controversy over appointment of Putta Sudhakar Yadav as TTD Board Chairman settles down, another appointment to the board has created much displeasure among Hindus. The most recent appointment of Payakaraopet’s MLA Anitha as the member of TTD board has drawn much criticism and anger from various quarters. The reason is Anitha’s own claim of being a devout Christian. Her appointment has obviously stoked resentment among concerned people who wish to keep TTD away from Evangelical forces.
 
A short video clip had gone viral on Social Media and was later picked up by mainstream Telugu Media where Anitha was in a conversation with an anchor of Vanitha TV. In the video, she seemingly says that she is a Christian and she always carries a Bible in her bag and in her car.
 
Hindu Organisations, Swami Ji and several political parties questioned the appointment of a Christian in the sacred TTD board. A PIL has also been filed in Hyderabad High Court questioning the appointments.
 
While responding to the controversy, she told the media that she is a Hindu of the Madiga community and that her Caste Certificate corroborates the same. In fact her party, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), had nominated her for the MLA seat only due to her SC credentials. She expressed her displeasure for having to prove her devotion towards Bhagawan Venkatesa and claimed that she has been practicing Hindu culture for past 15 years. She later submitted a letter to the Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu asking him to recall her appointment stating that she doesn’t want her party to get defamed due to the controversy over her appointment. Hindus in AP have hailed this as a success of Social Media and Hindu unity at large.
 
Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams has been in the news for several controversies like non-Hindus working in it, giving away temple lands for the construction of Islamic University, razing down 46 temples for road widening 
 
This controversy again raked up the debate over Government’s holding of Hindu temples and its lands. TTD and the Endowment department have been in the news for several controversies like non-Hindus working in the TTD, giving away temple lands for the construction of Islamic University in Tirupathi, razing down 46 temples for road widening in Vijayawada etc. Earlier, the appointment of Putta Sudhakar Yadav as TTD Board Chairman too was questioned over his Christian leanings.
 
BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao while demanding the resignation of Anitha as the member of TTD, in a series of tweets has also questioned the appointment of Putta Sudhakar Yadav. He tweeted, “AP CM Chandrababu has insulted Hindus by appointing Anitha, TDP MLA, a self-declared Christian as a member of sacred TTD Board. He recently appointed Sudhakar Yadav with Christian leanings as TTD Chairman. Please speak up!” YSRCP has also questioned the appointment of Ms Anitha to the TTD board and has demanded her resignation.
 
Ms Anitha has pointed fingers at YSRCP (YSR Congress Party) for the campaign against her and for circulating the video. This is ironical since it was the government led by YS Rajshekhar Reddy, a devout Christian and father of YSRCP president Jagan Reddy, which attempted to appease the Christian Evangelists by passing a Government Order to reduce 7 hills of Tirumala and limit it to 2 hills. It was said that YSR Reddy was acting as per the directions of the Church which wanted to build Churches on these hills. YSR had also given open support for conversion of Hindus to Christianity. For YSRCP to criticise Anitha’s appointment without questioning or being critical of YSR’s open call for conversion and many other anti-Hindu acts, is a perfect case of political opportunism. It has to be recalled that the YSR Government had also appointed Christians to the TTD board.
 
TTD Act stipulates that anyone who belongs to an alien faith has to give a written declaration stating that she/he has faith in Lord Venkateswara, before being allowed into the temple. It remains to be seen if such an undertaking was given by Anitha. The entire episode has also rekindled debate over self-proclaimed and practicing Christians possessing Scheduled Caste certificates and enjoying benefits given to the SCs even after his/her conversion to Christianity.