Unacceptable act by Telangana CM

Telangana Chief Minister Chandrasekhara Rao’s offering of gold jewellery to the Tirupati temple raises disturbing questions about the relation between personal piety and official action, use of state funds for unauthorised purposes and the conduct of government representatives in a secular state. Rao made a donation of gold ornaments valued at about Rs 5.59 crore to the temple as thanksgiving for the creation of the state. This is an unacceptable way of spending public money. If Rao had taken a personal vow, as he says, when the agitation was going on, he should have made the offering from his personal funds. If someone else had made a different vow, would the government fulfil that too? To suddenly claim, three years after the creation of the state, that there was a vow to be fulfilled is wrong. There is no justification for the use of tax payers’ money for the purpose.

The money is claimed to have come from the state’s charitable endowments budget meant for the upkeep of temples. If this is so, it is unauthorised use of state funds, because the richest temple in the country does not need state funds for its upkeep. The ornaments will remain ornaments and will not be used for the maintenance of the temple. The funds that should have gone to a deserving and needy temple were diverted to Tirupati to satisfy the chief minister’s vanity and personal fancy. Telangana is hit by drought, unemployment, farmers’ distress and many other problems. When funds from the exchequer should be used to meet the needs of people who face these problems, their use for such purposes amounts to callousness and lack of concern. The chief minister’s personal piety should not override public interest, which should be the norm for the use of public funds and the decisions of public servants. Few can make out the public interest involved in the donation.

The larger question of deploying public funds in the service of private faith in a secular state is also important. Even conceding that the practice of secularism has not followed its conventional precept in India, the impropriety of a chief minister propitiating a deity with public funds, in feudal style and with his family in tow, should not go unnoticed. The distinction between the personal and the official shou­ld not be blurred in matters of state. The creation of Telangana was a politically controversial issue. The deity’s views on the matter are not known. To imply that it was the deity’s intervention that facilitated the creation of the state is therefore unfair, and would be unacceptable to many.

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