A three-day prayer meeting organised last week in Vijayawada has the Andhra Pradesh Opposition up in arms. They are accusing the Government of promoting evangelist Brother Anil Kumar by helping him organise the Jesus Christ Blessings Festival he is the son-in-law of Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy.
Husband of Reddys daughter Sharmila,Anil Kumar began preaching over a decade ago under the aegis of Anil World Evangelism but it was not until December last year 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 Ministers son-in-law,Opposition parties feel there is more to Anil Kumars sudden exposure to the public. The publicity overdrive since December has coincided with the state Governments 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.
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? 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 government-sponsored functions, said Rajkumar.
Sources at All India Christian Council say that though Anil Kumar,a Brahmin who converted to Christianity,married Reddys daughter Sharmila 10 years ago,he shot into limelight as an evangelist only after his father-in-law became the 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 CMs residence. The evangelist resides in Bangalore but visits Andhra very frequently for religious meetings. When The Indian Express called him for his comments,Anil Kumars close associate Paul Prasad,director of administration,said he would call back if he wished to speak. That call was never returned.
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. 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 mobilisation is done by those in power. In spite of all this,I can say that you can buy billboards and advertising space and banners but you cannot buy divinity, said Paul.
BJPs 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.