Andhra Pradesh

Religion takes centre stage in Tirupati bypoll

In a major deviation from the past, the Tirupati parliamentary constituency is witnessing an unusually different narrative this by-election, where the focus is not on the party’s promises or other burning issues, but the candidate’s faith.

During the last couple of days, the two major parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) resorted to mudslinging on the rival candidates with regard to their religion. BJP national secretary and State co-in-charge Sunil Deodhar, whose recent tweet on Tirumala chief priest Ramana Deekshitulu raised hackles in the TTD as well as the government circles, took the next potshot by daring Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy to divulge the religion of his party candidate M. Gurumoorthy.

In his tweet posted on Sunday, Mr. Deodhar sought to know why Dr. Gurumoorthy had not taken Balaji darshan till now. “Is he also a Christian masking himself as a Hindu SC, like your HM? If so, then you’re cheating people & Christ too,” read his tweet. He posted another tweet showing Dr. Gurumoorthy praying at a Gudur church, with the message: “This is breach of constitution which clearly says Christians can’t contest from SC reserved constituencies. You’re backstabbing SCs. BJP-JSP will fail your hidden agenda”. Following up on Monday, he posted on his Twitter handle the screenshot of the Facebook page of AP State Christian Youth Council president Rev. Abilash, who is also a pastor at Holy Prayer Church, Gudur (the post has since been removed), which acknowledged Dr. Gurumoorthy praying at the church on the day of filing the nomination.

The BJP’s position was no better vis-a-vis posts questioning the candidate’s faith. The day the former bureaucrat from Karnataka K. Ratna Prabha was named the BJP candidate, similar posts surfaced on the social media, questioning her faith. A post accused her of practising Christianity, though her certificate showed her as Hindu SC. The controversy later subsided on its own.

On Sunday, Syed Shafi Ahmed Qadari, the State government appointed Qazi, stoked controversy by holding a meeting of Muthavalis at a mosque in Tirupati, where he allegedly sought votes for the YSRCP candidate.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 5:24:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/religion-takes-centre-stage-in-tirupati-bypoll/article34306082.ece

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