A bus ticket for a journey from Tirumala to Tirupati on 22 August has created a controversy in Andhra Pradesh. The innocuous ticket for Rs 55 carried on the reverse side, information about pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It is printed in Telugu and translated, it says “For Christians at minimum expense with all facilities, Holy Jerusalem pilgrimage”
The BJP has slammed the government for allowing propagation of Christian religion at a Hindu place of worship. Ratan Sharda, RSS ideologue and author, tweeted a copy of the ticket asking Jaganmohan Reddy if he was an evangelist at taxpayers cost. BJP leaders based in Andhra Pradesh called for an anti-conversion law in the two Telugu states.
In Hyderabad, BJP MLA Raja Singh accused propagation of Christian religion among Hindus who are travelling to Tirumala and Tirupati.
“Does Jagan know about it? If yes, he needs to stop it. Tirupati is a holy place of worship for Hindus and no other religion can be propagated here. Whoever is responsible for these tickets, action should be taken against them,” Raja Singh told Filter Kaapi.
A senior official of the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) confirmed that the ticket is genuine.
“We are enquiring into it. It came to our notice last night. It was a minority affairs ministry advertisement about a government programme,” said the official who did not wish to be identified. Other sources in Tirupati said the bundle was supplied only on the morning of 22 August and was not meant for this route.
But there is a twist to the story. Filter Kaapi has accessed a communication of the APSRTC dated 5 March 2019 in which it refers to a purchase order dated 4 June 2018. In this, it is decided that ads of the minorities welfare department of the state government will be printed on 60000 rolls. These were to be supplied to the Nellore and Kadapa zones of the APSRTC. It must be pointed out that the ads pertained to all kinds of social welfare programmes of the government and were not restricted to talking about Jerusalem or Haj alone.
What this means prima facie is that the decision was taken to print the ads put out by the Minorities welfare department in those two zones when the TDP was in power and had nothing to do with the present government that formally took charge on 30 May 2019.
However, what needs to be probed now is how did this ad get published on a bus plying on the Tirumala-Tirupati route. Was it by oversight or a case of deliberate mischief?
Reiterating that no religious propaganda will be allowed in Tirumala-Tirupati, Endowments minister B Srinivas has said he will order an investigation into how bus tickets meant for Nellore zone, find their way into Tirumala-Tirupati.
The latest controversy comes on the back of the controversy just two days back when the BJP and the Telugu Desam accused Jagan of not lighting the traditional lamp during an event in Dallas in the USA. The CM was accused over social media of hurting Hindu sentiments. The YSRCP hit back by pointing out that the hall where the function was organised did not permit lighting of a fire and hence the lamp was electronically lit.
While Jagan is a practising Christian, he also regularly visits Hindu places of worship. This has been used to label him as a leader who promotes Christianity while paying lip service to Hinduism.
When Jagan appointed his uncle (his mother’s sister’s husband) YV Subba Reddy as the Chairman of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, he was accused of foisting a Christian on TTD. It took a while for the fake news to be debunked and establish the fact that Subba Reddy is a devout Hindu and very orthodox and religious at that.