The Jagan Mohan Reddy-led Andhra Pradesh government has ordered the non-Hindu employees of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) to quit.
Chief Secretary LV Subrahmanyam, during his visit to the temple early this week, said if necessary, surprise checks would also be conducted at the houses of the employees to ensure that they are not practising other religions.
"There are employees have converted to other religions. It's their choice. Nobody can stop them from doing so but they can't continue in their jobs in the TTD. Nobody should hurt the religious sentiments of others," he said.
"They can practice their faith at home but they should leave the TTD. We will even conduct surprise inspections at the residences of those working in Tirumala if needed," he added.
The officials have reportedly started working on identifying the non-Hindu employees.
There are an estimated 48 non-Hindu employees in TTD, who came under scanner amid concerns being expressed in some quarters over increasing attempts of religious conversions in Tirumala.
The move is inspiring the authorities of other temples in the state too. The Executive Officer at Srisailam's Mallikarjuna temple has also reportedly prepared a list of non-Hindus working with their trust board and sent it to the Endowments Commissioner demanding action.
The announcement by the Jagan Mohan Reddy government comes amid controversies and mounting criticism by the opposition, especially Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The party dubbed him "anti-Hindu" after advertisements for Jerusalem yatra and Haj pilgrimage on bus tickets in the temple town of Tirupati had sparked a row last week.
The advertisements were found on the back of the AP State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC). The government ordered a probe and promised to take action against the officials for their lapse.
BJP national Secretary Sunil Deodhar, who is also co-incharge of party affairs in the state, termed the advertisement of Jerusalem yatra as "unnecessary, unacceptable, communal and insult to Lord Balaji".
The BJP had also targeted Jagan Reddy for allegedly not lighting a lamp at a ceremony during his recent visit to the US.
Some BJP leaders alleged that Jagan Reddy, a Christian, visited Hindu temples during elections only to garner votes.
However, leaders of the YSR Congress Party clarified that safety rules in the US do not permit lighting of traditional oil and wick lamps, especially in auditoriums. They claimed that there was an electric lamp at the event attended by the Chief Minister.
(With agency inputs)