The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam’s (TTD) move to auction temple assets in Tamil Nadu refuses to die down despite the Jagan government issuing a GO to halt the proposed selling of 50 TTD properties.
On Tuesday, while BJP leaders sat on hunger strike in New Delhi accusing the ruling YSR Congress Party in Andhra Pradesh was trying to hive off temple assets that it doesn’t own, Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy came under sharp criticism from Subramanian Swamy. The BJP Rajya Sabha MP took to his Twitter handle to vent his anger against auctioning of temple assets. Subramanian Swamy in his tweet alleged that the AP CM wants to make Andhra Pradesh into a Christian state. “If a Christian CM can be responsive to Hindus’ vociferous demand on Tirupati land auction but a Hindu CM takes over all the temples in the State and appoints himself as Chairman, has Hindutva gone off the rails,” Subramanian Swamy tweeted.
Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha MP G V L Narasimha Rao and Sunil Deodhar, the party’s national secretary co-in-charge of Andhra Pradesh, sat on hunger strike, demanding that the government bring an ordinance that all assets of temples and mutts under the state government will not be auctioned, and the details of the properties, land, money and other assets should be made public. The BJP leaders have vowed to fight tooth and nail against the TTD’s move to sell temple assets. They said they will launch a public agitatation against the government’s decisions to divest assets of Hindu temples. Talking to mediapersons on Tuesday, Sunil Deodhar said Jagan “came, saw and grabbed. The state government is not the owner of temple properties. It has no right to sell these assets.” He also took to his Twitter handle to express his outrage against the TTD’s move, “All activists of @BJP4Andhra & @JanaSenaParty are on fast from 9am to 5pm today. Joining them from the house of @GVLNRAO in Delhi. We demanded an ordinance from @ysjagan gov that would prevent present & future govts in AP in selling temple land & properties,” Deodhar tweeted.
On Tuesday, BJP state president Kanna Laxminarayana who sat on hunger strike in Guntur accused the Jagan government of usurping the temple assets. He said after attempting to sell Mangalagiri and Annavaram temple lands, the Andhra Pradesh government has not set its eyes on Tirumala properties. Further, he alleged that ever since Jagan Mohan Reddy has become AP Chief Minister, he has opened the treasury of the state to the Christian community, with an eye on encouraging conversion activities. “The GO halting the auction of TTD assets is just a political ploy, a tactic to mislead Hindu devotees,” Kanna said.
The proposed sale of temple assets snowballed into a major controversy, which has drawn the attention of national BJP leaders. On Sunday, Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha, who is also a special invitee to the TTD Trust Board, dashed off a letter to Y V Subba Reddy asking the TTDP chairman to revisit the decision and desist from the idea of selling TTD assets donated by the devotees with “huge sentiments attached to these properties.” In the letter, Rakesh Sinha said the sale of assets will hurt the sentiments of crores of Hindu devotees across the world. Y V Subba Reddy on Sunday tweeted back to Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha. “TTD, since 1974, has been monetizing lands which are hard to manage and splintered across the country. TTD monetizes lands only when there is no possibility of making them spiritually viable and manageable for the organization. These lands are of small sizes like 4 to 10 cents where no development is possible. This is NOT an AP Govt. decision. Successive TTD trust board’s in the past have established the procedures to monetize unviable lands. The present trust board is only following the established norms of previous trust boards without any deviations. Eventually we want to safeguard the donor devotees generous contributions to the TTD either in the form of land or corpus.”@RakeshSinha01 The Jagan government’s GO comes a day after Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha letter to Y V Subba Reddy.
On Monday, Bandi Sanjay Kumar took to his Twitter handle to take on both the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh governments. He said the Jagan government was trying to turn Andhra Pradesh into the fiefdom of Christianity while the KCR government was turning Telangana into Muslim kingdom. “We will protect Hindu temples from these rulers and dig the political grave of these political parties,” Bandi Sanjay tweeted Jana Sena Party president Pawan Kalyan on Monday decried the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) move to sell Srivari properties and demanded that the Jagan sarkar withdraw its decision immediately. Pawan Kalyan in his tweeted noted that the movable and immovable assets were donated by devotees in South and North India to Lord Venkateswara and that the TTD has only insulted and hurt the sentiments of the devotees who donated the properties by calling the assets as non-remunerative. “Devotees have donated house sites, agricultural lands and buildings. The TTD has insulted the devotees by calling these assets as non-remunerative. The devotees donated the properties for Hindu religious purposes and to ensure service to the Lord, and not to the State government to sell the assets. The properties donated by the devotees should serve the devotees and pilgrims coming to the Lord’s abode. The TTD’s argument that it cannot protect properties located at far-off places and that they are non-remunerative, and hence the decision to sell them, does not go well with the Hindu devotees. I fail to understand why the TTD, which has a ‘Estate wing, has decided to auction the assets. There is no dearth of funds to run the affairs of the temple administration. The interest earned on the temple deposits is enough to run the temple administration,” Pawan Kalyan tweeted
The Andhra Pradesh government developled cold feet with outpour of anger and anguish from several quarters, including political and religious. Soon enough, the Jagan government on Monday had isued a GO to halt the auction of TTD assets. In the a GO (No 888), the state government noted that it has nullified an earlier GO issued on January 30, 2016 to dispose of 50 TTD properties. Further, the government had asked the TTD to stop any move to auction the temple assets in Tamil Nadu or in other parts of the country. Additionally, the Jagan government had asked TTD to consult Hindu religious leaders and Hindu devotees in matters related to Tirumala. The state government also directed the TTD to review its decision taking into consideration the sentiments of crores of Hindu devotees. “Keeping in view the sentiments of devotees, the government hereby direct TTD to reexamine the issue in consultation with different stakeholders like religious elders, opinion makers, section of devotees etc. to ascertain whether these properties can be used by TTD for construction of temples, dharma pracharam and other religious activities,” the GO noted. “Till the finalization of the matter stated above, the proposed disposal of 50 properties by TTD is hereby kept in abeyance,” the GO noted. The executive officer, TTD, was asked to submit a compliance report immediately. The issue has snowballed into a major controversy with the central BJP leadership visibly miffed with the TTD’s move to auction the temple assets in Tamil Nadu.
On Monday, Y V Subba Reddy said the Opposition parties were politicizing the issue and trying to throw muck at the YSRCP government by making a mole out of mountain hill. After deciding to sell off the temple assets at a meeting held on Saturday, Y V Subba Reddy in a complete U-turn said, “The government will do everything to protect the temple properties and will always work in the service of God. The TTD meeting was held on Saturday to discuss on how to protect these properties. The YSRCP government sees no reason why the temple assets should be auctioned.” Subba Reddy said the practice of selling immovable and non-maintainable properties has been in vogue since 1974.”Around 129 such properties were disposed of between 1974 and 2014,” he said. It was at the board meeting held on July 28, 2015, headed by the then chairman Chadalawada Krishnamurthy that resolution No.84 was passed to form a sub-committee to study the prospects of auctioning such properties. The meeting on January 30, 2016, gave the nod to the sub-committee’s proposal to dispose of 50 such properties that ranged between one cent and five cents. tucked away from the mainland and thus difficult to monitor and maintain. “This board only continued the process. The State government has nothing to do with the TTD’s decision,” Subba Reddy said. “We have only set up committees to draw a roadmap on which assets to be auctioned, the upset price and other issues. The assets are mostly in Vellore, Kanchipuram, Tirutani and other far -off locations in Tamil Nadu. The agricultural lands in these areas do not exceed more than one acre or two acres, while other assets are in the range of 1 cent, 2 cent, 3 cents or maximum 5 cents of land. It is difficult to protect these properties. There is a possibility of encroachment. In such a scenario, the TTD held a meeting to discuss a roadmap on how to protect these properties without hurting the sentiments of the devotees. We have not issued any orders for auctioning the properties. We will not do anything that would hurt the sentiments of the devotees. The TTD chairman said the trust board will again meet to review the whole issue and announce its decision. The TTD’s move to auction has sparked off a political row. The sentiments of Hindu devotees were deeply hurt by the decision.