Inroads into Kerala: As BJP woos Christians, Church leaders hint it may not be that easy

The state unit of BJP is all set to launch a drive to earn the trust of Church leaders and the people from the community in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP is also “optimistic” about parties such as Kerala Congress (Mani)

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi | Updated: July 2, 2017 3:48 am
bjp, kerala bjp, kerala christians bjp, bjp support in kerala, india news, indian express news The BJP is also “optimistic” about parties such as Kerala Congress (Mani), which has broken away from the Congress-led UDF, and groups with backing of the Christian community would join the NDA in Kerala. (File Photo)

THE BJP’s attempts to woo the Christian community to expand its support base in Kerala seems to have hit a roadblock, with the community’s leaders maintaining a distance amid the “communally charged atmosphere” in the country. While the BJP maintains that the “increasing threats from Islamic fundamentalism” are seen by the Christian community as a graver threat “than what is happening in India”, Church leaders in Kerala said their approach to the Centre ruling party would be “issue-based”.

The state unit of BJP is all set to launch a drive to earn the trust of Church leaders and the people from the community in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP is also “optimistic” about parties such as Kerala Congress (Mani), which has broken away from the Congress-led UDF, and groups with backing of the Christian community would join the NDA in Kerala. State BJP leaders said KC(M) leader K M Mani’s presence at an event hosted by the BJP Minority Morcha in Kerala to felicitate Philipose Mar Chrysostom of Marthoma Church in Kerala gives out “positive signals”. But denying that any discussion is on with the BJP on this issue, Mani told The Sunday Express, “I was at the event to honour Mar Chrysostom. I would have gone had whoever organised the event.”

A source in KCM said the party had some informal discussions over the prospects of joining the NDA some time ago, and is in a “dilemma” now. “With the communal atmosphere getting worse, and at a time minorities are being attacked in the name of cow protection, KCM, a party with a strong support base of Christian minorities, has reservations over discussing the possibility of joining hands with BJP,” a party leader said. Christians form 18.38 per cent of Kerala’s population.

V Muraleedharan, former president of Kerala BJP said, “The kind of reception (party president) Amit Shah-ji has received from Church leaders (during his visit in June) has given positive signals.” BJP leaders assess that while Muslims in the state —26.56 per cent of the population —overwhelmingly back the Left parties, Christians, concerned about the global scenario, are likely to extend support to the party, especially as the Congress gradually weakens. “A large section of the community has realised that the Congress has no future — at least until 2024,” Muraleedharan said.

But it may not be easy for the BJP. Father Jimmy Poochakkatt, spokesperson for the Syro Malabar Church, said the meeting of the Bishops with Shah should not be read as political. “We will oppose BJP in many things, but we have respect for a party democratically elected to power. Our support will be issue-based,” he said.

Father Paul Thelakat, former spokesperson and editor of ‘Light of Truth’, a church publication, was more candid. Pointing out that there has been a “concerted attempt” by the saffron party to woo Christians, he said, “There is also the danger of taking an approach without considering small splinter groups of Christians in North India, especially in the Hindi belt, where they live under mortal threat of intimidation and muscle power of Sangh Parivar outfits.”

Alleging that the BJP was making India “a Hindu Pakistan”, Thelakat said, “As long as votes are cast, the Christian community should stand to defend democracy and civil rights of the people in general.

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  1. M
    Murthy
    Jul 2, 2017 at 3:52 pm
    At the moment Father Paul Thelakadu and other Church leaders do not need any "Z" category security... Only Hindu Religious Gurus like Mata Amritaanandamayi needs it. BUT when the Popular Front of Indiaorganise many more cutting of the hands of Christians, like Prof. Joseph, they would vote for BJP. There have been so many incidents in Kerala of Islamic radicalism, which our Media did not highlight. For instance almost ten or twelve years ago, a group of Hindu and Christian Fisherman were in a meeting under the flag of an organisation that sounded like a Sanghi Parivar - Arya Pratinidhi or some such name... From a nearby Mosque emerged several people and cut down around ten or twelve fisherman at the meeting. Media would not want me to use the word 'Lynching' here. My elder cannot recall the name of the place... May be one of you can supply that information.
    Reply
    1. S
      silent majority
      Jul 2, 2017 at 2:52 pm
      No harm trying like Goa. More catholic MLA's are in BJP and Law Order situation has been the best in many years for goans tourists.
      Reply
      1. R
        Rank
        Jul 2, 2017 at 10:02 pm
        Clearly you haven't been to goa recently The recent bans on beef and alcohol have hit hard. So much so that there have been coup attempts. Law and order is fine but the states service industry is in tatters.
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        aravind
        Jul 2, 2017 at 1:05 pm
        First of all, it is wrong to solicit support of any individual or group based on their religious or community. BJP should be able to attract people based on good governance and this will definitely happen. No need to beg religious leaders as most of them are end of the day influenced by narrow perspectives (which should not be the case!). It is hoped that no political party try to attract vote bank based on community or religion and the media will do good to discourage and work so that we groom a well meaning society.
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        1. S
          sharma
          Jul 2, 2017 at 11:49 am
          Father Paul Thelakat needs to read history. I would suggest he read any write up on how Malabar was affected by Tipu sultan and more importantly how Spain reclaimed Christianity after the Moors ruled for more than 300 years. India is and always was a liberal country and most of the english speaking gentry in India has fond memories of schooling in a catholic school which taught english as well as discipline punctuality and moral science.
          Reply
          1. M
            Murthy
            Jul 2, 2017 at 12:29 pm
            Sharmaji, Neither this Father Paul Thelakat, nor this IE reporter, in fact none of the IE reporters, have any interest in HISTORY. They peddle the same exaggerated views of how 'after BJP formed government, India has turned 'communal'. Kerala is more of a communal place than people realise, especially, the Christians and Muslims of Kerala. In another twenty to thirty years times, the Christians will come to BJP on their own. By then, they would be reading the HISTORY OF LEBANON, on what happened to the Christians there in the 1970s and 80s.... It is too much to expect this Liz Mathew to know what happened to Syrian Christians in the last TEN years in Syria and Iraq. They will eventually come to BJP.
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          2. R
            Roby Mani
            Jul 2, 2017 at 10:29 am
            Bjp may get the votes of Mani and his family and no more if he were to join BJP. The party leaders of BJP know this so will not waste their time to woo christian votes. Their main strategy will be to attract the Nair and Ezahava votes. Many christian will switch votes to Communist as they know congress is dying.
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            1. M
              Murthy
              Jul 2, 2017 at 12:33 pm
              Oh yes, we all know that the "Communists" are 'alive and kicking' in Kerala or may be just 'kicking their bucket" ?!!! A good choice for Kerala's Christians, highly intelligent choice, perhaps.....I presume you would renew your membership with the CPM and when you do so, remember to get your pin up flags.
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                Sunny
                Jul 2, 2017 at 5:11 pm
                Yes Mr. Murthy (Might Be One of the Bhakt's BJP Cell), we South Indians especially Keralites Have Some Brain. Sorry to say, you people cant brain wash us. We are together and will stay together against your cruel rule of BJP.
            2. M
              Marathaa
              Jul 2, 2017 at 10:28 am
              North Indians don't mess with South Indias they know the difference of Religion and politics....Hindu , christian or Muslims of Kerala know the politics subject better than any state of India.
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              1. M
                Murthy
                Jul 2, 2017 at 12:36 pm
                Yes, Professor Joseph, whose hand was cut by his fellow Malayali Muslims, would endorse those views. Maplah riots in 1890 and 1920, vouch for the great 'communal harmony' in Kerala?
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                1. R
                  Rank
                  Jul 2, 2017 at 10:05 pm
                  I'm not a South Indian but I love that aspect of the south people may have disagreements but they all live in peace and prosper. Something that is lacking in our northern states. Both the peace and the prosperity. Cheers to you guys.
                  Reply
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                  Tushar
                  Jul 2, 2017 at 8:38 am
                  LoL dre am on ..Christian intellectuals in Kerala had given a clear message that ,don't expect us to be a part of bjp.. They would definitely look the trend in Kerala too..because for their future social life getting smoother they would join with those who are on driving seat
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                    RAJ MK
                    Jul 2, 2017 at 8:11 am
                    Kerala Christian churches are big business houses with billions of income by running various educational, plantation, Healthcare and other business . They use religion as a Mascot to run big business in all shady ways . Therefore they can ally only with powerful political parties in Kerala , which are CPM and Congress
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                      Rank
                      Jul 2, 2017 at 10:06 pm
                      The best health care the best economy the best of education. Spare yourself the trouble bad mouthing them and look at your own home.
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