M. Malleswara Rao

HYDERABAD: A Christian belonging to Church of South India sect where the congregation goes by the Bible, Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy advocated secularism till the end.

Dr. Reddy was as devotional to Lord Venkateswara at Tirumala as he was before a Good Shepherd picture in his personal room at his camp office. He carried on his head the Lord’s holy silk vestments during annual Brahmotsavams at Tirumala and traditional “talambralu” for the celestial wedding of Lord Rama at Bhadrachalam celebrated every year. Several eyebrows were raised within Christian circles against these acts, sources said but he remained unperturbed.

When the threat of developers encroaching Tirumala hills loomed large in 2007, he issued an order declaring all the Seven Hills, and 10 theerthams (streams) spread over 10 to 15 sq. km as the property of Tirumala Divya Kshetram. This was the first ever step taken to protect the sanctity of the pilgrim centre, recalls I. V. Subba Rao, the Chief Electoral Officer who served as Executive Officer of the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams at that time.

The other initiatives were a legislation banning propagation of “other religions” at pilgrims centres and amending the Endowments Act to set up a Dharmika Parishad to ensure proper administration of temple. He floated a Christian Finance Corporation and took a policy decision to send Christians on pilgrimage to Jerusalem on subsidy on the lines of Haj to Muslims. Shortly before his death, a decision was taken to subsidise pilgrimage by Hindus to Manasarovar.

A student of Andhra Loyola College, Vijayawada, YSR was attracted by the Society of Jesus fathers (Jesuits) that runs the Loyola institutions all over the country.

He resolved to hand over his family-run degree college, polytechnic and other institutions on a 100-acre prime land at Pulivendula, to Jesuits. But the Jesuits reportedly expressed the fear that, as he was a politician, he may seek to reclaim the property later. As soon as he was told that, he registered the entire property in the name of Jesuits with the request that they must help the poor.