Andhra Pradesh Opposition leader Jagan Mohan Reddy recently met well known religious seer Tridandi Chinna Jeeyar Swamy at his ashram in Muchintal in Shamshabad, before his election campaign, aimed at unseating Chandrababu Naidu.
Of late, both the Telugu states’ big guns have indicated that they may go for early elections, and are geared up for campaigns through outreach programmes. While their political strategies remain shrewd, their actions could reveal a larger picture, as political analysts have pointed out.
Following the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the state has witnessed a lot of changes in administration to politics, but what has remained constant is the undeniable presence of Swamijis /seers in the political affairs.
Chandrababu was earlier known to be a politician who wasn’t that religious in office, during his earlier stints as CM, but now things have changed.
From inviting Chinnajeeyar Swamiji to Krishna Pushkarams and practicing vaastu beliefs in ongoing capital constructions, he has demonstrated a shift in his actions.
Earlier this year, Tridandi Chinna Jeeyar Swamiji (Godman) was present at the housewarming ceremony of KCR's new residence, which is said to be the richest official residence for any chief minister in the country. The Swamiji was even offered an official seat by CM KCR.
Speaking to TNM, senior journalist TS Sudhir said, "Many people, including some in the BJP, believe that KCR is well into practicing religious ceremonies."
This tendency in KCR has been there for several year now, as the Swamiji has been a philosophical adviser to the Chief Minister for 30 years.
KCR’s son, minister K Taraka Rama Rao has claimed that his father is passionate in following Hindu dharma rather than the BJP. Political observers say that this is an outcome of trying to counter the BJP’s foray into Telangana.
Jaganmohan Reddy also recently met with the same Swamiji, to seek "blessings" before his election "walkathon" in all 175 constituencies.
Sudhir added, "This is perhaps his effort to get rid of the label of being merely a ‘Christian leader' and his aspiration to play both the cards. Though Andhra politics works on caste equations, we can't deny this phenomenon."
N Venugopal Rao, another senior Journalist said, "This flattering of religious seers by politicians is not a new phenomenon. All the successors of Jawahar Lal Nehru at the national level have done this to a great extent in order to lure the voters."
He also observed that "The politics following the arrival of BJP led to a polarisation and increased the majoritarian political discourse where everything was seen from a religious perspective."
Adding on, he said, "In the short term, these politicians may gain power through appeasing and touching the feet of these Swamis, but in the long run, this subservience towards religious seers will harm the constitutional values."
He also termed it as "antithetical to secularism", and said the country has failed to understand and practice the idea of secularism.
Political scientist, Dr Digumarty Suresh Kumar of (UoH) concurred with the earlier views and said, “With the BJP coming to power by capturing votes of the majority religion, it has brought legitimacy to staying in touch with religious seers, especially of the majority Hindu religion in politics and this is what is happening in Andhra politics.”
"A politician like Jaganmohan Reddy, whose family is largely known to have a Christian background, making such moves indicates that the nationwide phenomena has created a fear among the politicians about the existence of their politics without appeasing the majority religion vote bank".