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Bachchan worship gets Tirupati staff into trouble

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By G.S. RADHAKRISHNA in Hyderabad
  • Published 24.04.07
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Hyderabad, April 24: Newly-weds Abhishek and Ash and their famous clan have come and gone. The snaking queues that waited unendingly in the scorching Tirupati sun have long vanished.

But the Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanam board has got cracking — it has called a meeting on Thursday to crack the whip on two temple officials who placed Bollywood’s demigods before the Lord’s devotees.

Tirupati temple joint executive officer Prabhakar Reddy and security officer Hari Kumar stand to face disciplinary action for having cordoned almost 30,000 people out of the temple till the Bachchans and their caravan finished their darshan on Sunday.

“It appears that in the name of security the queues were stopped outside the temple, almost 1 km from the deity. This is unheard of,” fumed state finance minister K. Rosaiah, who was hustled out in six minutes.

Even when the President and Prime Minister come calling, devotees are allowed inside the temple and are cordoned off only a few metres from the deity.

“Such a security cordon is not created even for the PM,” he said.

Angry TTD board members and state ministers suspect the temple officials had “heavily compromised themselves” to provide the wedding party a “trouble-free and comfortable darshan”.

“What happened on Sunday is totally unheard of in the history of the TTD,” a senior board member said.

Over 22,000 people are believed to have queued from Saturday afternoon and waited overnight for the Sunday darshan. By the time the Bachchans left the temple, the numbers had swelled to 30,000.

“It took 12 hours for all the devotees to complete their darshan,” the member added.

Temple executive officer K.V. Ramanachari, however, stood by the temple officials.

“We have heard of protests outside the temple by frustrated devotees and angry visitors. But there have been no complaints against temple officials,” he said.

But sources said the board had asked the temple administration for a report on the day’s events. At least 20 women fainted and 10 suffered heat stroke as crowds did not move for almost five hours on Sunday morning.

There were also protests that prasadam and laddus had run short because the wedding party snapped up huge quantities and had them loaded onto their private aircraft.

They are also believed to have occupied almost 40 rooms in the board’s two VIP guesthouses, 15 at Padmavati and the rest at Hinduja.

“The Bachchans and their people occupied only 15 rooms for two hours. But the whole security team and other executives occupied 25 rooms and used nearly 25 vehicles over two days to organise everything,” a TTD official said.

Another alleged the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group may have paid temple officials and securitymen almost Rs 15 lakh to get everything in order.

Former Andhra Speaker A.E. Reddy said TTD authorities generally succumbed to show of money power by industrialists and film stars.

“The kind of violation of temple norms on Sunday is an example of official nepotism.”