He has surplus funds,a personal Boeing Jet,headquarters spread over 1,100 acres outside the city,and hobnobs with the powerful here and abroad. Last week,he was arrested in connection with the murder of his brother. For two decades or so though,Andhra Pradesh has known K A Paul as one of its most prominent evangelists.
In a state with a rising number of Christians and of seven channels devoted exclusively to the Bible,evangelists are a fast growing group. With the Church commanding a lot of influence among the two million Christians in the state,lakhs of rupees flow in as donation into charity organisations floated by them. Besides,almost every village has a separate Bible channel offered for a few hours every morning through the local cable operator.
In a scenario such as this,Kilari Anand Paul,hailing from a Dalit family in a small village in Vizianagaram district,found his calling early,entering ministry full time when he was just 19. Known to be a good orator,he started off by touring villages spreading the Gospel and later started travelling abroad,meeting presidents and heads of countries. His last high-profile public appearance was at the side of Florida pastor Terry Jones,who protested against building of a mosque near 9/11 Ground Zero in New York.
While there are other self-styled evangelists in the state,appearing on TV and fiercely competing for the funds at stake,Pauls real contender has only been Brother Anil Kumar. The latter drew his influence from being married to former chief minister Y S R Rajasekhara Reddys elder daughter Sharmila. In fact,the rivalry between various churches and evangelists in the state coincided with the rise of YSR as chief minister in 2004. A Christian himself,he encouraged and promoted organisations,and religion and politics became interlinked.
In the 1980s,Paul had so much funds coming in as donations in his organisations Gospel to Unreached Millions (GUM) and Global Peace Initiative that he purchased a Boeing 747 and named it Global Peace One.
He used the Boeing to jet around the globe preaching and giving lectures,as well as delivering aid to disaster-hit areas in third world countries. Between 2001 and 2007,he built his headquarters,known as Charity City or GUM City,on land purchased by him as well as the 669 acres allotted to him by the government.