The 'Dharma Parirakshana Yatra' will include 700 meetings in various locations of the Tirupati parliamentary constituency.

Chandrababu Naidu speaking at a podium into a mic with both hands raiseFile Photo
news Politics Wednesday, January 20, 2021 - 18:29

Ahead of the Tirupati parliamentary bye-election, which is yet to be scheduled, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief and former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu on Tuesday announced a ten-day long campaign, named ‘Dharma Parirakshana Yatra’, to ‘safeguard Hindu dharma’ in the state. Starting from January 21, the yatra will go on for ten days and cover 700 villages in the Tirupati Parliamentary constituency. The announcement from TDP came days after news surfaced of a Rath Yatra planned by the BJP in early February, to protest the YSRCP government’s alleged negligence in preventing temple attacks in recent months. 

Addressing the TDP village committee and booth committee in-charge leaders in Tirupati constituency during a video conference on Tuesday, Naidu said that it is “everyone’s duty to protect the holiness of Tirumala and Tirupati.” 

Read: BJP to organize Rath Yatra in Andhra Pradesh to protest 'inaction' against temple attacks

Speaking to TNM about the yatra, TDP spokesperson Kommareddy Pattabhi Ram said, “In the past few months in the state, one particular religion is being continuously targeted. It is not only temples and idols that are being destroyed. Many decisions taken by the Jagan Mohan Reddy government are suppressing Hindu religion in the state. The main motive of this yatra is to protect Hindu dharma and to oppose the atrocities committed by the YSRCP government. Tirupati happens to be the religious capital for Hindus, so we are starting here.”

Pattabhi Ram said that the yatra will be carried out with 70 specially designed vehicles, which will be deployed to conduct a total of 700 meetings in the Tirupati constituency. “At some point, Chandrababu Naidu and Nara Lokesh will also be participating. The schedule is not yet finalised. Once the yatra kicks off, at some point they will join. All our major party leaders from across the state will be coming to Tirupati,”  he said, adding that the TDP is taking this election very seriously. 

TDP also opened a party office in Tirupati on Wednesday. BJP had also opened a party office in the town about a month ago, in December. 

While speaking to Tirupati TDP leaders on Tuesday, Naidu also said that since the Jagan Mohan Reddy government came to power, in the pilgrim town of Tirupati, “liquor and meat are being sold, other religions are being preached, and forced religious conversions are being encouraged.” However, there has been no evidence in the public domain of any such incidents of forced religious conversions. 

Several times in the past, similar campaigns by the TDP have been foiled by the police. The recent protests against the vandalisation of an idol of lord Rama in the Ramatheertham temple also saw tension and arrests of opposition leaders. 

Read: Tension in Andhra's Ramatheertham over idol desecration as TDP, BJP protest

Speaking about permission for the Dharma Parirakshana Yatra, Pattabhi Ram said, “Whenever we undertake any kind of program, it's always with prior intimation to police and permission. For this yatra also, we will follow procedure. If they try to stop us, we will react accordingly. I don't think they'll dare to stop this yatra, since they have seen what happened when they tried to stop us in Ramatheertham. They have seen how people have reacted.”

He also added that the yatra will be undertaken peacefully, without hurting religious sentiments of those who follow religions other than Hinduism. “No comments will be made on any other religion. Our yatra is only to safeguard one particular dharma as it is under attack,” he said. 

The state’s politics is no stranger to yatras taken out by political leaders. Both Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and his father and former CM YS Rajasekhara Reddy had undertaken ‘padayatras’ across the state, before they were swept into power. 

Read: Why Chandrababu Naidu has opted for a Hindutva brand of politics

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.