Hajj, Jerusalem Tour Ad on Bus Tickets in Tirumala Sparks Row, BJP Alleges 'Religious Conversions'

CNN-News18

Hyderabad: Bus tickets issued in Tirumala sparked a row after devotees found advertisements of Hajj and Jerusalem tour printed on them.

Several groups protested and alleged that such a move was done only to ‘pollute’ Tirumala- which hosts one of the richest temples in the world and is also considered a sacred place for the Hindu community. The temple hosts lakhs of visitors on a daily basis, particularly during the peak festival seasons.

At a bus depot in Ram Bagicha, one of the landmark areas in Tirumala, tickets issued to travel to Tirupati had advertisements on Hajj and Jerusalem printed behind the tickets. These buses are run by Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation, a unit of the state-government.

The opposition parties have demanded an inquiry on the issue and termed it as an ‘act of negligence’ by the government, hurting the sentiments of the people.

“Is this justifiable? The government’s negligence is giving other religions to spread their propaganda. This is nothing but encouraging religious conversions. We’re not against any religion, but Tirumala is a holy place for Hindus,” state BJP spokesperson Dinakar Lanka told News18.

However, a quick scan through the tickets shows that there are also advertisements related to a few schemes implemented under former chief minister Chandrababu Naidu’s regime- indicating that these could be old rolls printed during Naidu’s time.

“We have asked for an immediate inquiry. It was found that those tickets were printed during the Naidu’s tenure. The tender, for the same, was taken by them before elections. Opposition and a few groups are just trying to malign the YSRCP government. We will take necessary action after inquiry,” minister Vellampalli Srinivas Rao said on Friday.

The minister had also asked all the groups to maintain peace in Tirumala and not to escalate the issue further.

According to the local depot manager, there are no advertisements on tickets issued in Tirumala and this particular incident could have happened by mistake. The ‘tim rolls’, sheets of paper on which tickets are printed, are supplied from the zonal source are in nearby Nellore district.

“We get about 200 tim rolls for tickets. And today, for this particular depot in Ram Bagicha about 5 tim rolls had these advertisements. It could be by mistake. We are checking how these particular rolls ended up here,” depot manager Giridhar Reddy said.

Meanwhile, Telangana’s BJP MLA Raja Singh, known for communally charged statements, also warned saying that failing to take an immediate action would cause unwanted consequences.