BJP plans Christian outreach to strengthen its base in Kerala | Latest India News

Desperate to carve out a designated space in the southern state, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appears to be taking every opportunity to strengthen its base in Kerala, including meetings with Christian religious leaders to get on the route. national leaders.

Party Chairman JP Nadda’s visit to Kozhikode (North Kerala) last Friday was no exception as he met with Bishop of Tamarassery Remigious Paul Inchananiyil.

“We discussed the general situation in the country,” Inchananiyil dodged questions when asked about the BJP’s “latest love for the church.”

Last week, Minister of State for Minority Affairs John Birla and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Sampark Pramukh, Ramlal, met with many leaders including Archbishop Cardinal Baselios Cleemis. The party also reportedly assured Church leaders that the Union government would do everything possible to realize Pope Francis’ visit to the country.

Last year, when three cardinals of the Catholic Church – George Alancherry, Baslios Cleemis and Oswald Gracias – met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi, they renewed their longstanding request for the visit of the Pope and the Prime Minister accepted their request. In 2018, when the pope visited Bangladesh, the church asked the government to invite him to India, but nothing materialized.

“We have been assured that the long-awaited papal visit will be made possible by the end of this year or early next year,” a senior Syro-Malabar church official said, adding that the official announcement would be here shortly. The last pope to visit the country was John Paul II in 1999.

Last year, the prime minister held talks with leaders of the warring Jacobite and Orthodox factions to broker peace at the initiative of Goa Governor PS Sreedharan Pillai.

Party leaders admit to approaching a few sulky Christian leaders with the aim of starting a new political group, but their efforts are yet to pay off. Recently, when the saffron unit approached senior congressman KV Thomas, he expressed his leaning towards the communist side.

Later, when the party approached Kerala’s first NDA MP, PC Thomas – a junior minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet – about joining the BJP-led coalition, he reportedly replied coldly: “Vajpayee-era party to the Modi period, the distance is far” chilled their minds.

The holding of former Kerala Congress Secretary General George Sebastian Association of Christian Trust Services appears to be an effort to bridge this gap.

“From now on, it’s an apolitical social group. Our goal is to establish a healthy relationship and eliminate all misunderstandings between the party that rules the country and the Church,” Sebastian said. He said that in addition to established religious denominations, there are many independent churches in the state and the new team will try to bring them together under one roof.

‘FEAR FACTOR’

Minister of State for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan, a native of the state, said the Congress and CPI(M) are instilling fear among the Christian community and driving them away from the BJP.

“In the northeastern states and Goa, the BJP has gained community support, but in Kerala some forces are trying to keep the community away from the party. The left and Congress often team up to create this misunderstanding, but their designs won’t last long,” he said.

“They deliberately create this fear that Sangh Parivar is trying to do a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and Muslims and Christians will be targeted. But the facts tell the truth. Over the last eight years, communal rioting has dropped to 20% compared to previous UPA regimes,” Minority Morcha National Vice President Noble Mathew said, adding that there was a noticeable change in the attitude of the community towards the BJP. He said isolated incidents in other parts of the state were getting a lot of publicity and part of the population was working behind it.

The party is well aware that according to the demographic pattern – 54.73% Hindus, 26.56% Muslims and 18.38% Christians (2011 census) – it is difficult to penetrate the state without the support of the Christian community. Party leaders say that although the community supports it wholeheartedly in northeastern states and Goa, in Kerala the left and Congress have worked to create an environment of ‘fear psychosis’ and meetings recent ones aimed to deal with the same thing.

Last year, when the Bishop of Pala Mar Joseph Kallaranghat raised allegations of “narcotic jihad”, the BJP was the first to defend him. The bishop spoke out against part of the Muslim community saying that “Catholic girls and young people have been targeted by jihadist elements in the state.” Later, the government booked him for creating enmity between different religious groups.

At the Kozhikode meeting, Nadda also said that Christian leaders who raised genuine concerns had been silenced by the ruling CPI(M). He accused the Left Front government of supporting fundamentalist forces and claimed that Kerala had become a breeding ground for extremist elements under his rule.

“Christian leaders have recently expressed concern over the rapid demographic changes taking place in the state. Instead of responding to their concerns, the government is silencing them. The government’s pseudo-secular policies harm the community fabric of the state,” the BJP chairman said.

But the ruling CPI(M) strongly opposed Nadda and said his desperation was quite evident. “The saffron festival is hopeless. The lynching or polarization of the North Indian model does not take place here. The state has a strong secular fabric and no one can damage it. Despite all the rhetoric, the party will remain a distant third in the state,” Politburo member MA Baby said.

STRONG RSS PRESENCE

Even after the strong presence of its ideological mentor RSS in the state, electoral success eluded the BJP.

The state has 4,500 shakhas, one of the highest in the country, despite strong opposition from left-wing extremist elements, RSS co-secretary Krishna Gopal said last year. The party has never crossed the 15% mark in bipolar state politics. In the 2021 Assembly elections, he lost the only Assembly seat to Nemom.

“In Kerala, Congress and CPI(M) are closing ranks to defeat potential BJP candidates. They openly trade votes to find out. But things will change,” BJP leader S Suresh said.

Political observers, however, believe it is difficult for the party to appease the community in the state. “The party will have to play its cards right and strengthen the organization rather than playing the gallery,” said political commentator Sunnykutty Abraham.


  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s Bureau Chief in Kerala, with around three decades of experience in journalism.
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