In another setback to the Andhra Pradesh government, the High Court quashed a government order and retained Ashok Gajapathi Raju as the Chairman of the Mansas Trust and Simhachalam Mahalakshmi Narsimha Temple Trust in the State.
The court has also cancelled its order appointing Ashok’s niece Sanchayitha Gajapathi Raju as the Chairman. The court heard a petition filed by Telugu Desam leader Ashok Gajapathi Raju against the order by the YCP government which released a GO 72 for the purpose.The court on hearing the case of both sides has clarified that the order is not valid. Earlier, the YCP government gave orders appointing Sanchayitha Gajapathi Raju as the chairman by removing Ashok Gajapathi Raju without any prior notice.
The government has argued that the appointment is as per procedures. She also argued that she belongs to the same Pusapati dynasty and deserves the post.
PVG Raju constituted Manas Maharaja Alaka Narayana Society of Art and Science on November 12, 1958, in commemoration of his father. He appointed his two sons Ananda Gajapathi Raju and Ashok Gajapathi Raju as its members to look after the affairs of education, culture and dance across the State.
The Trust has about 14,800 acres of land worth about Rs 50,000 crore in the north Andhra and Godavari districts. The trust holds 108 temples and also runs 12 educational institutions offering LKG to PG education, 1,800 staff and 15,000 students in the north Andhra area. Even former President VV Giri also studied in this institution.
The trust monitors several noted temples in the State including those in East Godavari, Visakhapatnam, Simhachalam, Arasavelli Suryanarayana temple in Srikakulam, and Paidithalli Amma temple in Vizianagaram and others. The Mansas trust has also got land in Chennai.
After PVG Raju death, Ananda Gajapathi Raju took over the post. The trust became the centre of controversy and Ananda Gajapati Raju later faced criticism during 1994-2016 period in appointments and trust affairs.
He died in 2016 and the former union minister and his brother Ashok Gajapathi Raju took the charges. With his daughter Adithi Gajapathi Raju and former State planning commission deputy chairman Kutumba Rao and two others as members.
However, the YCP government in March 2020 cancelled the Trust headed by Ashok Gajapathi Raju and set up another committee with seven members. It appointed Sanchayitha Gajapathi Raju in his place, who is the second daughter of Ananda Gajapathi Raju and some other family members. Sanchayitha is a BJP spokesperson in Delhi. The government has appointed Ashok family’s arch-rival MLA Kolagatla Veerabhadra Swamy as its member. Another member of the trust is YCP MP, Bellana Chandrasekhar. The other members are Ashok’s daughter Adithi Vijayalakshmi, Ananda Gajapathi Raju’s daughter Urmila, GVG Raju’s daughter RV Sunitha Prasad, Arun Kapur and Vijay K Sondhi.
The trust used to have financial experts as its members in the past. With Ashok as chairman and his daughter Adithi a member, the trust has two other financial experts.
The TD and Ashok family members levelled charges that the government turned the trust into a political body and accused the government of trying to grab control of the trust land and assets by changing the existing governing body.They said that the Trust has its bylaws and norms that only an elder and a male dynast will head the top post.
The government claimed that the trust was sacked due to irregularities.
While Ashok has been with the TDP and Ananda was with the Congress and TDP. Ananda got two wives and his first wife Uma Gajapathi Raju won as an MP on the Congress ticket from Visakhapatnam. Sanchayitha was active in the BJP and led its youth wing. She was not on good terms with her uncle Ashok. She runs an NGO and offers pure water to the poor and participates in the Swach Bharat programme in Vizianagaram tribal areas and expanded activities to Visakha agencies after joining the BJP.
Ashok Gajapathi Raju told the media that the YCP government is trying to cause inconvenience to him. “Finally, the truth prevailed with the court verdict protecting the constitution and I welcome it.”
Reacting to the verdict, he welcomed the orders and vowed to serve the trust for its aims. The court verdict proved that laws and constitution prevail in the country. He accused the YCP government of indulging in vendetta politics. He said, “Since the case took many days and we have to see about damages and losses caused by the new board. Several cows in Goshala were allegedly killed and we have to see all such unlawful acts. We have to look into the affairs of the temples and assets and restore them all. We have to see how far the government will extend support as the court quashed its wrongful GO.”
The TD Chief and former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu welcomed the court verdict. “Justice will prevail and injustice cannot win over justice. Mansas trust case and verdict teach a lesson to the YCP government to mend its ways. The court prevented the Jagan government’s idea to loot the lands and assets of the Trust” he said. TD general secretary Nara Lokesh said that the court gave a verdict against the government’s idea to loot the land.
Lokesh said that the court justified the case of Pusapati dynasts who are known for generous donations and services for the people. “I extend greetings to Ashok Gajapathi Raju for his victory, in this case,” Lokesh tweeted. He asked the government to stop vendetta politics.
After the court verdict in his favour, Ashok and his family members visited Paidi Thalli Goddess and offered special pujas.
However, the government plans to move the upper court on the case. Endowment Minister V Srinivas said that they will act on the issue after receiving a copy of the court verdict. “Sometimes court verdicts come in favour and against we have to see the verdict and act”, he said.
Sanchayitha said that being a dynast and elder daughter of PVG Raju’s elder son, she has every right to head the trust. After my father died, the TD Government illegally appointed the trust headed by Ashok.