Race heats up to head India’s richest temple

Race heats up to head India’s richest temple

Political race is heating up in Tirupati for the post of chairman of Tirumala temple board which manages the affairs of India’s richest shrine. If there is an any position of power in Andhra Pradesh that is more sought after than a cabinet berth, it is the post of chairman of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), an autonomous body responsible for the administration of the popular hill shrine in Chittoor district.

With an annual budget of over ₹3,100 crore, the Tirumala board is a high-profile and influential body. The chairman and board members are appointed by the government.

An intense lobbying is on to grab the chairman’s post. Veteran Telugu film actor and former TDP MP Mohan Babu and former TTD chairman and MLA from Tirupati B Karunakar Reddy are among the front-runners for the coveted post.

Jagan may favour his kin

The Chief Minister Y S Jaganmohan Reddy is said to be keen on appointing his maternal uncle and former Ongole MP Y V Subba Reddy for the coveted post. Since Subba Reddy was denied the party ticket to contest in the recent Lok Sabha elections, there is a pressure from the family to accommodate him.

Subba Reddy is also an aspirant for Rajya Sabha seat from the state. He was in the forefront of the agitation in support of the demand for special category status to Andhra Pradesh. Along with other MPs from the YSR Congress Party, he had resigned from Lok Sabha last year to protest against the denial of special status by the NDA government.

Political appointments

Traditionally, the chairman and other members of the TTD board are the political appointees of the government of the day. As per the convention, they quit their posts when there is a change in the government.

The present chairman Sudhakar Yadav, appointed by the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government, has refused to resign despite the change of guard in the state.

The Jaganmohan Reddy government is likely to scrap the present board and appoint a new one through an ordinance after June 10. The chief minister is set to expand his cabinet on June 8.

The TTD chairman is considered a high-profile post as the incumbent gets to preside over abundant riches in the coffers of the temple board since Tirumala is the richest shrine in the country.

Mohan Babu

The veteran actor Mohan Babu who joined the YSRCP just a few weeks before the April 11 elections, he is an aspirant for the post. He had a bitter fallout with the TDP leadership after a long association with the regional party. Mohan Babu’s family is also related to Jagan by marriage of his actor-son Manchu Vishnu. Besides, Mohan Babu runs educational institutions in Chittoor district where Tirupati is located.

As per the convention, the TTD will have a representative from Telangana as a board member. Given the friendly equation between Jagan and his Telangana counterpart K Chandrasekhar Rao, a Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) nominee could also be accommodated.

Earlier, Chandrababu Naidu had appointed his party legislator from Khammam district in Telangana, S Venkata Veeraiah as a board member in December 2018 but following reports suggested that the MLA was planning to join the TRS, Naidu disqualified him from the membership.

Budget for 2019-20

Nestled among a picturesque string of seven hills in Chittoor district, Tirumala, attracts over 50,000 pilgrims a day from all over the country and abroad. On festivals and special occasions, the inflow crosses one lakh mark. The temple receives offerings from devotees in the form of cash, jewellery, gold, silver, property deeds and demat share transfers.

According to the budget proposals for 2019-20, the TTD expects an overall revenue of about ₹3,116 crore during the year. The income from Hundi collections was projected at ₹1,231 crore.

The revenue from the interest on deposits in nationalised and private banks was estimated to be about ₹846 crore. The temple body expects ₹292 crore from sale of tickets for various forms of worship and another ₹270 crore from sale of ‘laddu prasadam’.

Auction of human hair offered by the devotees as fulfilment of their vow, is also a source of revenue and the temple expects to earn ₹10 crore from it. The expenditure on salaries to over 6,000 staff and outsourcing personnel and other commitments is expected to be ₹965 crore.

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