Hyderabad: Ever since Telangana Rashtra Samithi led by K Chandrasekhar Rao came to power in 2014, a new culture of sycophancy has crept into the political system: bathing the cut-outs and portraits of the chief minister with milk, a symbol of deification.
Personality cult is not new to Indian politics – it was there during Indira Gandhi regime in the past and is seen during the present Narendra Modi regime at the Centre. Back home, it was witnessed during the periods of N T Rama Rao and Y S Rajasekhar Reddy in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh.
But the “milk bath” culture was certainly a new phenomenon in the political system at least in Telugu states. There were instances of frenzied fans bathing images and giant cut-outs of popular politicians and matinee idols with milk in Tamil Nadu, but not in Telangana or Andhra.
Whenever KCR announces a new scheme or doles out any sop to any section of people, or even declare pending dearness allowance installments for the government employees, not only TRS activists but also his fans, have been resorting to this sycophantic practice of anointing the portraits and cut-outs of the chief minister with milk.
It has become such a fancied trend that a section of journalists organised milk bath for KCR portrait after he announced Rs 100 crore fund for journalists’ welfare in the past.
In the latest instance when KCR announced Dalit Bandhu scheme, his party workers organised “Ksheerabhishekam” (shower with milk) of his portraits at several places in Yadadri Bhongir district.
BJP has begun to follow the trend
This milk bath culture now seems to have spread to Bharatiya Janata Party, too, which has also been witnessing the trend of glorification of leaders for the last few years.
On Thursday, followers of Eatala Rajender, former state health minister who defected from the TRS into the saffron party, went a step ahead in this trend and had his feet washed with milk. They called it padabhishekam (washing the feet), at Vilasnagar village of Jammikunta mandal in Huzurabad assembly constituency, on his arrival as part of “Praja Ashirwada Yatra” (tour to seek blessings of the people in the forthcoming by-election to the Huzurabad assembly seat).
The followers, mostly comprising Dalits, claimed that they had washed the feet of Rajender as a thanks-giving gesture, as they said the KCR government had announced Dalit Bandhu scheme only after realising that he had become a threat for the ruling party in Huzurabad.
Rajender, however, reciprocated their gesture and touched the feet of Dalits, apparently to avoid the criticism from the TRS that he had insulted Dalits.
Now, this has become a trend in Huzurabad. Wherever Rajender is going as part of his marathon walk, his followers are making it a point to organise milk baths for his portraits, crediting him with the Dalit Bandhu scheme and other sops to the constituency, ostensibly to pre-empt the TRS from gaining any mileage.
On Friday, too, Dalits of Sirsapalli village of Huzurabad mandal performed milk bath to the portrait of Rajender and also that of Dr B R Ambedkar, stating that they were able to get some benefits from the TRS government only because of Rajender’s resignation from the TRS.
“This is atrocious feudal culture and a brazen display of insensitivity towards the people. How can these leaders encourage milk bath of portraits? Instead, it would have been better if the milk is distributed among the poor children,” said K Nageshwar, former legislative council member and Osmania University professor.
One could come across such milk baths in temples and for statues of revered leaders like Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi when they were desecrated. “I don’t appreciate the milk bath of these statues and idols. And milk bath of portraits of political leaders is all the more disgusting,” Nageshwar said.
He said he was contemplating filing a petition in the high court seeking banning of this ugly trend in politics that reflects selfishness, sycophancy and slavery.
In March 2016, a petition was filed in Karnataka court seeking a ban on this tradition of milk bath when fans of Tamil superstar Rajinikanth wanted to perform Ksheerabhishekam of his giant cut-outs as mark of jubilation when he was awarded Padma Vibhushan. The petitioner argued that performance of milk bath to the cut-outs would deprive millions of children and hungry people of milk.
The Bengaluru court ordered that the practice should be stopped forthwith. Even Rajinikanth had appealed to his fans to stop wasting milk by giving bath to his cut-outs. The controversy thus came to an end in Karnataka. May be Telangana politicians too would not stop this practice until the intervention of the court?
A Srinivasa Rao is Senior Journalist based out of Hyderabad covering developments in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. He has over three decades of reporting experience.