Explainer: Why did Ramana Dikshithulu drag Jagan into Tirumala priests mess
Ramana Dikshithulu alleged that anti-Brahmin forces in the TTD were at work to destroy the established temple systems
TIRUMALA: Ramana Dlkshithulu, the honorary priest of the Tirumala Tirupati Devastanams (TTD), was back in headlines with a controversial tweet on Thursday. He was upset that Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy, during his recent visit to Tirumala, did not address the issues pertaining to the temple priests based on the one-man committee recommendations. While expressing his disappointment, he alleged that anti-Brahmin forces in the TTD were at work to destroy the established temple systems.
Interestingly, Ramana Dikshithulu deleted his tweet within hours but that did not save him from facing the wrath of the existing priests of the Tirumala temple, who found fault with his accusations. While the reason for his retraction is really not known and was only being subjected to scrutiny in the realm of speculation, he came under fire from a battery of priests led by the current head priest of the temple.
They took exception to Ramana Dikshithulu's remarks against the chief minister in what is being largely perceived as a 'supremacy fight within the community of the temple priests'. In a sharp rebuttal, Head Priest Venugopala Dikshithulu on Thursday refuted Ramana Dikshithulu's accusations.
Addressing a press meet at the Archaka Bhavan here, he termed Ramana Dikshithulu's allegations as baseless. He sought to clarify that he, along with other temple priests, had met Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy when he presented the customary silk robes to the presiding deity the other day. They have appraised the chief minister on the functioning of the priests system at the Tirumala temple, he said.
"The setup and system of the archakas (priests) is being continued as per the Supreme Court directions and in accordance with GO no. 850. The Chief Minister, on being apprised about the need for the revival of our hereditary rights (to perform duties as priests), responded positively and we are happy about it. We met the Chief Minister only to speak about our hereditary rights and for the continuation of section 142. Only Ramana Dikshithulu can throw light on who are those non-Brahmins who, he thinks, are destroying the systems," said Venugopala Dikshithulu.
While making it clear that no priest was unhappy with the government, he asserted that retirement only kept one away from a position and not from rendering services to the Lord. He also claimed that Ramana Dikshithulu appeared to be fighting only for personal prestige and sought to clarify that he could not speak on behalf of the priests as no one had ever met him on the issues.
Deeply hurt or disgruntled?
Ramana Dikshithulu comes across as a distinguished personality from the TTD priests community but with a troubled history. In fact, the tweet controversy he created on Wednesday was not the first of its kind.
A few months back, the former head priest blurted out his frustration on Twitter alleging ill-treatment by the TTD authorities. He claimed that he was being robbed of his wish to be at the service of the Lord at the temple.
"We are driven to courts. Pl step in to set issues and put the TTD administration in proper place," was how he tweeted while tagging the Chief Minister in it. It was viewed then as a smart attempt by the well-educated priest to put the TTD inaction on his reinstatement back under floodlights and on a grand scale.
He was peeved at the TTD putting the issue of his reinstatement on the backburner despite its own orders to this effect and thus wanted to remind Jagan through his tweet. Until this time, his attack was wholly targeted on the TTD mandarins. But in a stark difference, he appeared this time to have chosen to take even the chief minister head-on, which was amply reflected in his latest tweet.
Ramana Dikshithulu first grabbed everyone's attention in May 2018 when he sensationally claimed that a precious pink diamond, that was part of a platinum necklace of Lord Balaji, went missing. He suspected that it was the same piece of jewellery that was auctioned a little while back in Geneva for Rs 500 crore. The severity of the allegations, coming right from the head priest, caused the then TDP government enough embarrassment. Dikshithulu also accused the TTD of indulging in rampant corruption which only defamed the Chandrababu Naidu government further.
But in a swift turn of events, he found himself unseated from the coveted position after the then TTD trust board unanimously decided to retire all the priests of 65 years of age from the temple services.
In April 2021, during the YSRCP government led by YS Jaganmohan Reddy, the TTD announced that all the priests, who were forced to retire in May 2018, would be drafted back into temple services. But reclaiming his position as the head priest remained an uncherish dream for him, thanks to a legal dispute. A petition filed in the high court by Tirumala temple's current head priest Venugopala Dikshithulu challenging Ramana Dikshithulu's reinstatement had taken things back to square one.
A one-man committee, as it is popularly known, appointed by the high court to find a solution to the dispute, submitted its report to the TTD a few months back. The board's stoic silence so far on the commission's report only seems to have rubbed more salt on the bruised pride of Ramana Dikshithulu, so much so that he decided to drag none other than the Chief Minister into the quagmire with his Wednesday's tweet.
If this was really his ploy, then it clearly backfired, something that was evident from the way he had to delete the tweet within hours of posting it. Grapevine has it that by trying to take the issue to the notice of YS Jagan in a rather haughty manner, he might have ended up ruffling a few feathers, a little too much, both in the TTD and the State Government.