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YSR's evangelist son-in-law triggers 'war of words'

YSR's evangelist son-in-law triggers 'war of words'

Author: Sreenivas Janyala
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: February 9, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/ysrs-evangelist-soninlaw-triggers-war-of-words/421191/

A three-day prayer meeting organised last week in Vijayawada has the Andhra Pradesh Opposition up in arms.

They are accusing the Government of using the state machinery to help evangelist Brother Anil Kumar organise the Jesus Christ Blessings Festival -- he is the son-in-law of Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy.

Husband of Reddy`s daughter Sharmila, Anil Kumar began preaching over a decade ago under the aegis of Anil World Evangelism but it was not until December 2008 that he started gaining prominence, organising his first Jesus Christ Blessings Festival in Secunderabad.

Although he is known for maintaining a low profile, huge hoardings announcing the arrival of the 38-year-old Brother have come up in several cities and towns across Andhra Pradesh.

Other than the fact that he is the Chief Minister`s son-in-law, Opposition parties feel there is more to Anil Kumar`s sudden exposure to the public. The publicity overdrive since December has coincided with the state government`s spat with another self-styled evangelist K A Paul, founder of Gospel to Unreached Millions and Global Peace Initiative. Paul publicly accused the Chief Minister of being vindictive because he did not provide funds for his elections and was, therefore, being denied funds for various charity organisations.

Political parties are alleging that the CM is propping up his son-in-law to counter and suppress K A Paul and are questioning the source of funds for the huge programmes that Anil Kumar has been organising.

Anil World Evangelism is a little known organisation. Where is it getting all the money from to organise such huge events? Crores have been spent on life-size billboards that have been put up all over Vijayawada. Who is behind the mobilisation of the 2 to 3 lakh people who attended the programme said TDP spokesperson N Rajkumar.

Government property and machinery are misused, he is provided police security and escort everywhere he goes, the state government arranges for full security and bandobast for his programmes which have all the markings of a government-sponsored function", said Rajkumar.

Sources at All India Christian Council say that though Anil Kumar, a Brahmin who converted to Christianity, married Reddy`s daughter Sharmila 10 years ago, he shot into limelight as an evangelist only after his father-in-law became Chief Minister. Before starting his state-wide tour, he addressed gatherings in the US, UK and Australia.

Anil Kumar established Anil World Evangelism (www.aweministries.org) in Hyderabad and the office is located in Aditya Elite in Somajiguda area, opposite the CM`s residence campus. The evangelist resides in Bangalore but visits Andhra very frequently for religious meetings. When The Indian Express called him for his comments, Anil Kumar`s close associate Paul Prasad, Director of Administration, said he would call back but eventually did not.

Abhilash Samuel, a spokesperson of Anil World Evangelism, denied that the organisation gets any support from the government.

"It is his popularity and the faith of people in him that draws the crowds. Anil Kumar believes that Jesus Christ is a God of relationship, not a God of a particular religion. His philosophy appeals to people," he said.

Evangelist K A Paul, who is surrounded by many controversies, alleges that the Chief Minister has 'crippled' him.

"He has cancelled my preach missions across the state. He has crippled me by getting police to file cases against me, including a land-grabbing case. Anil Kumar was my disciple until August 2007 until I crossed swords with his father-in-law Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. Tremendous publicity is being arranged for Anil Kumar in an effort to highlight him and restrain me."

"His religious meetings resemble political meetings where crowd mobilization is done by those in power. It is very clear they are aimed at political gains. In spite of all this, I can say that you can buy billboards and advertising space and banners but you cannot buy divinity. There are God-made preachers and man-made preachers", said Paul.

BJP`s Krishna Reddy said: "Now that his father-in-law is Chief Minister, he is taking advantage of the political clout. Anil Kumar wants to surpass K A Paul in becoming an international evangelist."

About nine years ago, Anil Kumar was caught on the wrong side of the law. In November 2001, an illegal international calls racket was busted in Hyderabad following a complaint by BSNL that some telephone booth operators were misusing the services of a private Telecom company to terminate incoming international voice calls bypassing the VSNL gateway and BSNL network. Police booked cases for violation of the Indian Telegraphic Act and Section 420 of IPC against four persons that included Anil Kumar who surrendered to the police.

Faced with all kinds of accusations, Rajasekhara Reddy, who was in the Opposition at that time, even defended his son-in-law in the Assembly stating that it was political vendetta. An official at Punjagutta police station where the case was registered said that they did not find any evidence of Anil Kumar`s involvement. The chargesheet is yet to be filed.

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