Starting his three-day tour of Kerala, BJP president Amit Shah met heads of churches in Kochi Friday as the party stepped up efforts to win the support of the community ahead of the 2019 general elections. Syro-Malabar Catholic Church’s Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, Latin Catholic Church Archbishop Joseph Kalathiparambil and representatives of three non-Catholic Christian churches had a 40-minute meeting with Shah on a church premises in Kochi.
Fr Jimmy Poochakkat, Syro- Malabar Church spokesperson, said: “The meeting did not discuss any political issue, it was only a courtesy call.” He said the heads of the churches wanted the Union Government to intervene in securing the release of Fr Tom Uzhunnalil who was kidnapped in Yemen last year. “Besides, they took up the crisis being faced by rubber farmers and the demand for formation of a fisheries ministry to address the issued of fishermen,’’ he said.
BJP national executive member P Krishnadas said Shah promised action on the issues raised by the bishops and told them the NDA government takes care of every section of society. Shah, who arrived in Kochi amid a raging row over a central government notification restricting the trade of cattle in animal markets for slaughter, told NDA leaders that there was no move to ban beef in the country and the government had introduced certain guidelines as per a court directive.
In tweets during the day, Shah said: “Reached Cochin for my three-day vistrut pravas. I thank the people of Kerala, the land of Adi Shankaracharya, for such a rousing welcome. The energy and enthusiasm for BJP among people of Kerala is a sign of trust in BJP and yearning for change from the LDF, UDF governments.” BJP sources said that at his meeting with the party core committee, Shah underlined the need to work “at the grassroots level”. “He is determined that the BJP should win from Kerala in the next elections. The focal point of discussion was to expand and strengthen the NDA at the grassroots level in Kerala,’’ party sources said.
BJP allies BDJS of Hindu Ezhava leader Vellappally Natesan and Janandhipathiya Rashtriya Sabha of tribal leader C K Janu also raised their demands with Shah. “Both parties have been making demands for proper accommodation in the central government for quite some time. Shah told them that there would be a favourable decision in the near future,’’ sources said.