After the chants of mantras died down, Telangana has been abuzz with the flak directed at Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao for organizing the five-day yagam. His son and state IT minister KT Rama Rao has his job cut out in defending his father’s actions.
Nearly every political party in the Telangana has lambasted the CM for the five-day mega 'Ayutha Chandi Maha Yagnam' held at his farmhouse in Medak for the scale of the extravaganza, and alleged misuse of government funds and machinery.
KT Rama Rao has staunchly defended his father, saying even though KCR was the chief minister, he too had his ‘individual choice.’
“Even before he is a Chief Minister, he is an individual first and he has his rights. If he wishes to conduct a yagam, that’s his prerogative,” said Rama Rao.
“I don’t understand the need for a controversy as the Chief Minister has not misused government money or machinery. When that is the case, why should anyone have a problem with the yagam? This country gives you the freedom to practice your religion and follow your beliefs. Why are detractors adopting a pseudo secular approach? The church and mosques also conduct rituals, is everyone being criticized,” he told The News Minute.
Over 1,100 priests from various states chanted mantras for five days for the yagam. Guests were flown in by private choppers hired by KCR and food was distributed to around 50,000 people on a daily basis according to various reports.
Rama Rao however, says that the chief minister had every right to be extravagant if he chose. “It is a matter of personal choice. There are people who spend crores for weddings; do we question all that grandeur? I repeat that KCR is an individual and he has his choices.”
In multiple reports, KCR has been quoted saying that the expenses ran up to Rs 6 crore and that they had been paid by the family and well-wishers. Many farmers’ leaders in the state have said that if yagam was for their prosperity too, they should just been given financial assistance.
Rama Rao however, says the two are mutually exclusive. “Let’s assume for a minute, that there are good rains tomorrow, isn’t that going to benefit all of us? Eventually if some good comes out of it, why question it? Spending money or donating it is not mutually exclusive. If we had decided to distribute the money to farmers, what is the assurance that would have been devoid of a controversy?”
He also denied that promoting science as IT minister clashed with the endorsement of a maha yagna believed to usher in prosperity.
"Irrespective of what faith you practice, or whether you are an atheist and agnost, the need is to be tolerant. That is the debate which is raging on now and even the media needs to ask itself why it is more tolerant. Being IT minister is my job, so I promote science. But as an individual, I have my beliefs. Does this mean all bureaucrats who work for science need to be non-believers? I don’t find any dichotomy in this," he said.
While conceding that government officials too have individual rights, the Left parties however maintained that it was no appropriate for a constitutional authority to display caste or communal feelings. To this, Rama Rao said that the Left was not in tune with reality.
The controversy surrounding the yagam is unlikely to die down soon as opposition parties have asked for accounts and information on usage of government machinery including vehicles and security.
But in a strange twist, the one politician who has refrained from criticizing KCR is his nemesis and Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu, who also attended the yagam.