Police in Andhra Pradesh's Vizianagaram district on Thursday, December 23, booked a case against former Union Minister Pusapati Ashok Gajapathi Raju in connection with an incident at Ramatheertham temple from the previous day. The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) politburo member, who is a hereditary trustee of the temple, and others were booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The case was booked at Nellimarla Police Station on a complaint by temple executive officer Prasad Rao.
The TDP leader and others were booked for allegedly using criminal force to deter a public servant from discharging his duty, damaging public property and creating nuisance. Ashok and his supporters had reportedly tried to remove the plaque installed to lay foundation stone for reconstruction of the temple, alleging that there was violation of protocol and temple traditions. Ashok had entered into an argument with the officials present ove the issue.
The incident occurred minutes before the foundation stone was laid by Deputy Chief Minister Pushpa Srivani and Endowments Minister Vellampalli Srinivas. Ashok alleged that the state government ignored protocol and also violated tradition and culture. He said the temple committee was not consulted before deciding the foundation stone ceremony.
Ashok also turned down the invitation to break the coconut at the ceremony. He argued that only the trustee was supposed to perform puja and lay the foundation stone.
Endowments Minister Vellampalli Srinivas said that Ashok created chaos by forcibly removing the plaque which had the names of minister and government officials engraved on it as per the protocol. He said that the latter wanted to make a donation under a clause to use it for idols but the officials refused it as the idols are being offered by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) free of cost.
Ashok’s family had been functioning as trustees of the temple for the last 400 years.
The temple was in news in December last year after unidentified persons vandalised a 400-year-old idol of Lord Rama, triggering massive protests by the opposition parties.