The true story behind injection of religion into Andhra Pradesh politics

Caste has always played a crucial role in Andhra Pradesh politics since inception. Politics evolved around the caste factor in this state. From witnessing several gang wars between different caste groups to faction-driven violence, the state has seen it all. 
However, all the casteism slowly seeped into politics in the state, to become more of an organised crime machinery, sans violence. Following its formation and its evolution after the Nizams, the state of Andhra Pradesh witnessed religious clashes during the Congress regime. In fact, it was a ploy employed by the Congress High Command to ensure that these clashes bought them votes of the minorities. 
The scenario of religious clashes gradually began altering after regional parties across India made their presence. In Andhra Pradesh, it marked the entry of Telugu Desam Party in the early 1980s following which Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao (NTR) became the Chief Minister of the state. During his term, religious clashes were brought to a standstill and almost stopped. Following that, even during the Chief Ministership of N. Chandrababu Naidu, the law and order remained well-maintained without hardly any religious clashes. 
With bifurcation of the state, the new Andhra Pradesh brought the much needed impetus required for a state that was suffering from a revenue deficit and lack of resources. Yet, as its Chief Minister between 2014 and early 2019 brought the state on a growth path by bringing crucial investments and jobs to the states, giving it a hope of progress and becoming a model state in the country. 
As fate would have it, the scenario took a 360-degree turn when Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy won the election in 2019, becoming the state’s Chief Minister. Ever since, investments moved out of the state, capital plan remains shelved, farmers protests’ continue while power, fuel and other charges have gone up. 
While this remains one side of the story, the state has been witnessing conversion of several Hindus (from lower castes) to Christianity at a massive scale. In fact, conversions have become so rampant that it is now being called a “Christian State.” 
What’s worse is this has given rise to religious discontent within the state. The agitation amplified with fire, desecration incidents across several major temples in the state, including meddling in the affairs of Lord Balaji’s temple in Tirumala. This religious discontent has given an impetus to the BJP which has been waiting for an opportunity to create a religious divide among the voters. 
The current political narrative of the state is running based on religious divide with a “Christian Chief Minister helming it while carelessly allowing conversions and destruction of Hindu places of worship,” said a political analyst. The BJP too has been gathering all its might to create and provoke these religious flames among people who are already vulnerable to the misdeeds of a lawless government. Additionally, the party has been waiting for this opportunity to further its covert agenda in bringing down Andhra Pradesh’s progress ever since Chandrababu lost the 2019 election.  
Adding to the already troubled circumstances, Jana Sena Party’s (JSP) Pawan Kalyan who has affiliated his party with the BJP. While the BJP has dumbed down Pawan, it is using JSP’s vote bank for creating the religious divide while the actor-turned-politician remains its unstable, undecided puppet. 
Meanwhile, this political crisis in Andhra Pradesh also has forced the Telugu Desam Party to take a religious stand while it usually refrains from practising religion-based politics. The party has been recently carrying out pro-Hindu campaigns to protest the unjust desecration and destruction of temples in the state by the current YSRCP government. 
While the political narrative in the state remains volatile and its vote bank is up for grabs by anyone, we need to observe whether this marks the beginning of religious-based politics in Andhra Pradesh, which has had a history of keeping religion away from its politics? 
Well, for any neutral observer looking at the current politics in the state, it is clear that every single party (except the TDP) is looking to systematically destroy Chandrababu Naidu’s political/administrative legacy as well as disintegrate the TDP through any and every opportunity they get. 

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