Several Christians leaders who were part of the TDP have left the party in the past few days, after Naidu made several ‘objectionable remarks’ during his visit to Ramatheertham.

Chandrababu Naidu raising his hand with Ambedkar in the backdrop File Photo: Facebook/Telugu Desam Party
news Politics Wednesday, January 13, 2021 - 20:00

On Wednesday, leaders of Telugu Desam Party’s Christian cell from 13 districts of Andhra Pradesh came together in Vijayawada to collectively resign from the party, in protest of communal remarks made by party chief and former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. Their move came days after the party lost another longtime minority leader, Philip C Tocher.

In his resignation letter to TDP state president Kinjarapu Atchannaidu, Tocher, a former MLA, wrote, "I am pained to inform you that I am resigning from the TDP's active membership with immediate effect from this day due to the sudden outburst remarks made by Naidu against Christian community. He reportedly added that he had been facing grave questioning by his fellow community members across the state, over the matter. Tocher has been with the TDP since its inception in 1983 and went on to be nominated as the Anglo-Indian MLA during the TDP regime from 2014 to 2019. 

These developments have happened in the wake of objectionable comments made by Naidu after visiting Ramatheertham, the centre of the ongoing controversy in the state over alleged attacks on Hindu places of worship. The campaign against the YSRCP government’s alleged indifference to the alleged attacks was initially spearheaded by the BJP, but the TDP has now adopted an even more aggressive rhetoric against the Andhra Chief Minister.

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

Addressing a public meeting after his visit to Ramatheertham, Naidu alleged that Christian missionaries were indulging in religious conversions near major temples in the state.

Watch: Chandrababu Naidu speaks after his visit to Ramatheertham

Several Christian leaders in Andhra Pradesh have castigated Naidu for these remarks, and many other alleged statements that he has recently made, while attacking Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. A group of people protested in Visakhapatnam at the GVMC (Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation) Mahatma Gandhi statue, demanding that Naidu apologise to the minority community.

In Vijayawada, a Dalit Christian rights leader, Perike Varaprasada Rao, accused Naidu of making such communal statements to survive in politics. Likewise, John Benny Lingam, another minority leader from Krishna district who supported TDP in the 2019 elections, reportedly wrote to the Superintendent of Police saying, "We suspect that Naidu is using his men to break the idols and pushing the crime on Christians", and sought police intervention. 

Former state convenor of the TDP Christian Cell Praveen told TNM that the entire (Christian) community in the state is infuriated with Naidu’s comments. Responding to Naidu’s claims of forced religious conversions in the state, Praveen said, “It’s hard to force feed a three-month old infant. How is it possible to “forcefully” convert adults from one religion to another?”

According to Praveen, Naidu has also made statements expressing concern over the increasing number of churches in Andhra Pradesh. “Churches have always been there in the state, before the TDP and YSRCP governments. Why do churches bother him (Naidu),”  he questioned. 

Praveen also alleged that Naidu objected to the fact that there are Christians who are benefiting from welfare measures meant for Scheduled Castes. “These people are eligible for welfare, be it due to their minority status, or economic or caste status,”  he said. Praveen said that Christian leaders in the state have been taken aback by Naidu’s comments, which are unprecedented for the TDP chief. 

“We didn’t expect such statements from him (Naidu). Never in the past 30-35 years has he spoken like this. If the party had ever taken such a stand, we would not have been with them till now,” Praveen said. According to him, the decision to submit a collective resignation was taken after requests for a clarification over the objectionable remarks, or a meeting with Naidu, went unheard. 

He also called out Naidu on his hypocritical behaviour, referring to past instances when Naidu had taken blessings from Christian religious leaders and celebrated Christmas, in attempts to come across as a secular leader. 

While the BJP spearheaded a campaign against Jagan alleging a deliberate attack on Hindu temples, Naidu, perhaps sensing a political opportunity quickly started targeting the Chief Minister’s religion. Several reports from the police department have indicated that the number of incidents of thefts, vandalism have not drastically increased since the YSRCP came to power in 2019. 

With inputs from IANS

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