The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Aye to Balaji, nay to Ram

Hyderabad, Feb. 11: Chandrababu Naidu may be opposing the Ram mandir in Ayodhya, but he is not averse to building Balaji temples in his state.

The Andhra Pradesh Cabinet yesterday decided to sanction from the common good fund Rs 25 lakh for each of the 295 Assembly constituencies for constructing Venkateswaralayas. The public will be involved to promote communal amity.

Earlier, Ramalayas (Ram temples) were built in most Dalit colonies to reduce tension between upper castes and Harijans over entry to temples.

The dole is sure to leave Naidu open to charges of going soft on Hindutva like some of his peers, namely Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh and Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot.

While Gehlot had recently backed a controversial Ramkatha hosted by Governor Anshuman Singh at Raj Bhavan to raise funds for drought relief, Digvijay claims he is a champion of cows and even talked of drinking cow’s urine for its medicinal value.

The Telugu Desam Party government’s decision came at a time when both the BJP — an ally — and the Darsgah Jihad-o-Shahadat, a fundamentalist organisation, observed a parallel bandh in the state.

While the BJP had called a statewide strike to protest the growing activities of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and “jihadi terrorism”, the Darsgah Jihad-o-Shahadat, a city-based fringe outfit, called a “Hyderabad bandh” to “expose the designs of the BJP to whip up communal hatred”.

The state BJP has been demanding a ban on the Darsgah. The Naidu government is also contemplating a ban following recent revelations of Rangareddy district police that the outfit’s men were behind serial murders in Hyderabad.

“The case is being investigated by the CB (CID) and we will take a decision after the completion of the inquiry,” home minister T. Devender Gowd told reporters yesterday.

The Darsgah claims that none of those arrested belonged to the organisation. The outfit’s chief, Shaik Mahboob Ali, said that like “fake encounters” against civil rights activists and Naxalites, this was a design of the BJP to eliminate members of his organisation.

The twin strikes passed off without any major incident of violence or unrest. Around 5,000 people were arrested all over the state including 700 in the city for obstructing vehicles and forcing shopkeepers to down shutters.

About 500 BJP activists and leaders — including the party’s floor leader in the Assembly N. Indrasena Reddy, three legislators, city deputy mayor Subash Chander and five corporators — were taken into custody, police said.

Ironically, the strike also gave an opportunity to the BJP and the Desam to show their concern for Muslims. On an appeal by the Desam, the BJP had announced that the bandh will be lifted in the afternoon so that Muslims could shop for Id tomorrow.

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