Political Pickle

Who will Jagan select as Tirumala temple Chairman?

In Andhra Pradesh, if there is any appointment that is as important as a ministerial post, it is that of the Chairman of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD). Not surprising then that there is considerable lobbying to grab the post. This is because the Chairman gets to preside over abundant riches in the coffers of the TTD by virtue of Tirumala being the richest temple in the country. 

Two, it is a high-profile and high visibility posting as the Chairman gets to rub shoulders with the high and mighty and the politically powerful besides celebrities who visit Tirumala for a darshan of Lord Venkateswara.

With the present Chairman, Sudhakar Yadav an appointee of the Telugu Desam, it is certain that he will be asked to go, if he does not resign by himself. The frontrunners for the post are veteran actor Mohan Babu who joined the YSR Congress just weeks before the day of polling. Mohan Babu’s family is also related to chief minister Jaganmohan Reddy by marriage of his son, Manchu Vishnu. Besides, Mohan Babu runs educational institutions in Chittoor district where Tirupati is located.

Another aspirant is Karunakar Reddy, MLA from Tirupati. A long-time loyalist of Jagan, he would expect the TTD post if he is not inducted into the cabinet on 8 June. 

But the dark horse could be YV Subba Reddy, former Ongole MP and Jagan’s maternal uncle. He was denied a ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections this time and there would be family pressure on Jagan to accommodate Subba Reddy in a senior post. A Rajya Sabha seat for Subba Reddy is also a possibility. 

YV Subba Reddy (second from right)

The new CM would also want a closer scrutiny of the manner in which the TTD funds are used and that would be factor in who is chosen to head the Devasthanams. During the period the Model Code of Conduct was in force, chief secretary LV Subrahmanyam had independently ordered a probe into the transport of 1381 kg of gold belonging to the Tirumala Sri Venkateswara temple from Chennai to Tirupati without valid documents and security.

Jagan would also need to follow tradition and have a representative from Telangana as a Board member. There is speculation over whether it could be a member of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) given the good relations between the chief ministers of Andhra and Telangana.

Chandrababu Naidu had appointed TDP legislator from Khammam district in Telangana, Sandra Venkata Veeraiah as a Board member in December 2018 but after reports that he was planning to join the TRS, disqualified him from the membership. 

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