Religious Polarisation bringing TDP & BJP closer in Andhra?

Ever since Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy came to power in May, Andhra Pradesh is increasingly witnessing signs of religious polarisation where the Opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are seen attempting to gain from the anticipated consolidation of Hindu votes. 

The TDP, headed by former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, has of late been more proactive in responding to issues of the Hindu faith than its erstwhile ally BJP, a move political analysts see as an attempt to consolidate Hindu votes against Reddy, a fourth-generation Christian. 

TDP, known traditionally for its secular stand, in the recent general elections also attempted to polarise Muslim minority votes against its erstwhile saffron ally. The party, which was part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the 2014 elections and shared power at both the Centre and the state, severed ties with the BJP in March last year. 

TDP views that a large portion of Dalits who converted to Christianity and now account for 12-13% of Andhra’s population may have supported Jagan in the recent general elections. 

“The party views that these Dalit-Christian voters, who were traditionally with the Congress, have shifted towards YSR Congress and are unlikely to shift to TDP in the near future,” said a senior TDP leader, who did not want to be named. 

“The party also views that any delay on our part in raising the voice in favour of the Hindu faith now may help BJP to gain and affect our vote base.” 

There have been a series of incidents after Jagan came to power. Several reports of conversions across the state were noticed. A key instance was Jagan not signing on the declaration at the popular Hindu temple of Tirupati, which non-Hindus are supposed to. Later, controversy erupted when advertisements of Jerusalem tour for Christians were noticed on the backside of government bus tickets at Tirupati. 

Opposition parties have attacked the ruling YSRCP government over reports on hiking the price of the Tirupati laddu, expanding the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) board, push English medium as mandatory in government schools and attempts by some to spread Christianity at Tirumala. 

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