The self-proclaimed politician K.A. Paul is a former travelling evangelist with some clout in the Christian populations of the Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. It seems BJP is using him as a fringe element as it always tries to encourage ‘fringe elements’ — be it from any community. It is their strategy. It appears that they are using him as a pawn and these meetings are just diversion techniques to confuse people.

Many in the southern political circles were intrigued by Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s meeting in May with K.A. Paul, a former travelling evangelist turned politician with some clout in the Christian populations of the Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The Union Minister for Fisheries and Animal Husbandry, Parshottam Rupala, was another person Paul saw in July.

Rupala, though, later said that his visit was just a courtesy call, it raised some eyebrows.

Paul’s brother told #KhabarLive that earlier this week, Shah had even offered government security to the Telugu politician after he claimed there was a threat to his life. A Christian preacher, Paul, in a conversation with #KhabarLive, claimed to have interacted with Prime Minister Narendra Modi several times over the phone, plus in a picture from 2016 on Paul’s Facebook page, he is seen shaking Modi’s hand.

So, who is K.A. Paul and why does the BJP seem interested in him?

Killari Anand Paul from Andhra Pradesh is a global evangelist who claims to have visited several war-torn countries and counselled world leaders. The 58-year-old owns a Boeing 747 aircraft and has gone on ‘peace tours’ in over hundred 100 countries, he said.

According to Paul’s team, he also heads two US-based independent organisations — Global Peace Initiative and Gospel to Unreached Millions, with the latter focusing on preaching Christian gospel.

In an interview in May, Paul claimed to have met US President Joe Biden in February to discuss the Russia-Ukraine war conflict. In the interview, he also said that he owns $100 trillion worth of wealth and that he has funded political parties on many occasions, including the agitation for a separate Telangana state by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).

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He founded the Praja Shanti Party in 2008 and, along with several PSP candidates, contested the 2019 Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections, but did not manage to win a single seat.

“Amit Shah might have given Paul an audience because he might have portrayed himself as a strong leader of a certain community,” said Ramchander Rao, BJP leader and former member of Telangana legislative council. “Shah is personally supervising the entire operation in Telangana where the BJP aggressively wants to establish itself. Politically, in Telangana and Andhra, he is very insignificant.”

Speaking to #KhabarLive, Paul said he told Shah that Praja Shanti Party candidates will be contesting the upcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Telangana.

“Why only the BJP? Praja Shanti Party also wants to emerge as a stiff opposition to KCR (Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao). I also told them how serious I am about contesting, especially Lok Sabha seats, and not just in Telangana but also in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, the North-East and Kerala, among others. Both Shah and Rupala ji agreed that I should contest,” Paul said.

“I even told Amit Shah that I want to become the prime minister,” Paul added.

According to senior political analyst Telakapalli Ravi, Paul is being used as a “pawn” by the BJP. “Paul has got a lot of funds, money. And the BJP always tries to enco ‘fringe elements’ — be it from any community. It is their strategy. It appears that they are using him as a pawn and these meetings are just diversion techniques to confuse people. Politically, I do not think this means anything,” Ravi said.

Bringer of faith?

In the conversation, Paul said that his relationship with Shah and Rupala dates back to the time when they were in Gujarat. He had helped the state with “funds” during the Gujarat 2001 earthquake and he has, since then, been on good terms with Shah and a few other BJP leaders. Paul added that his recent meeting with Shah also involved discussions about “arranging funds”.

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Born in Andhra’s Chittivalasa village, Paul said his journey can be termed as ‘boggulanundi Boeing varaku’ — loosely translated, it means ‘from coal to a Boeing’, hinting at financially difficult early years. He shot to fame, he said, sometime in the late 1980s.

His popularity as an evangelist, especially two decades ago, was so large that there were parallels being drawn between him and legendary American evangelical preacher Billy Graham.

Apart from reportedly being on Donald Trump’s faith advisory board, before he became the president, Paulhas, over the years, been photographed withTrump’s wife Melania Trump and daughter Ivanka Trump during a campaign meet in 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his predecessor Manmohan Singh, and met former Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and 39th US President Jimmy Carter.

Paul’s list of claims is long. According to him, he convinced Trump to not take any harsh decisions on Indian immigrant students, requested PM Modi to not go ahead with surgical strikes, and spoke to former Pakistan PM Imran Khan about releasing Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who was in Pakistan Army’s custody for a brief period following a clash between the countries’ forces in 2019. He also claims to have worked towards peace in war-torn regions like Iraq and Liberia in the past.

Paul’s most recent claim, in a video released on social media, is that he had also requested Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the attack on Ukraine. In the emotional video, he said that he had spoken to Putin over the phone about the same.

Rupala, in a letter to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, accessed by #KhabarLive, in 2021 had nominated Paul for the peace prize. The evangelist claims he has been nominated seven times for the honour.

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‘Part of Mission South’

Back in the Telugu states, Paul has always been brutally trolled on social media with hundreds of videos online mocking his many claims.

Although his political party is considered to be insignificant by political experts, they say that whatever little support his party gets will largely be from the Christian community. Paul is associated with several Christian organisations in the Telugu states and is also in touch with many pastors.

“Amit Shah is meeting people from different sectors to take feedback on Telangana because the BJP is very serious about the next elections in the state. Paul is a prominent person representing the Christian community so maybe not politically, but community-wise he is a key figure. This is all part of the strategy and if the BJP wants to come to power, we will have to consult all kinds of people,” a BJP leader told on condition of anonymity.

The BJP has been focusing on Telangana after a series of wins against the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi, starting with the Dubbaka bypoll in 2020. The BJP, last month, also conducted its National Executive Committee meeting in Hyderabad in an attempt to show how serious the party is about its ‘Mission South’ with a key focus on Telangana.

“KTR (K. T. Rama Rao, CM KCR’s son and IT Minister) was once asked who the main opposition to their party in the state was and he had mockingly replied K.A. Paul, in an attempt to belittle the BJP and other parties. So, the BJP has met KTR’s main opposition,” said another BJP leader jokingly, adding that Shah is meeting all possible people from the state whose common enemy is KCR.

“Sometimes it is all about creating noise,” he said. #KhabarLive #hyderabadlive #hydnews #hyderabadi