BJP has different faces; under Vajpayee it was different: Joseph Powathil

Joseph Powathil, Archbishop Emeritus of Changanacherry archdiocese had been the voice of Kerala’s Catholic church for long. Powathil, 85, on why BJP is unlikely to get traction in the state.

Written by Liz Mathew | Updated: April 30, 2016 8:08:50 am
Joseph Powathil, kerala, Changanacherry, Catholic church, christians, kerala christians, BJP, kerala elections, kerala news Joseph Powathil, Archbishop Emeritus of Changanacherry (Source: WikiMedia)

Excerpts from the interview:

Will the Christian community get behind any force in this election?

Never has the whole community stood behind any particular party. There are local prejudices and external influences like the media. This has been the case in the past elections, too.

The Church advises the faithful before voting. What are the concerns the community bears in mind?

We are concerned about the education policy and the freedom to practice and propagate the faith. Also, the issue of reservation for Dalit Christians. We have been concerned about increasing alcoholism. The agrarian crisis too is a key issue. On many of these issues, UDF has been favourable to Christians. They have limitations too. For example, the reservation issue is something the Centre has to address. It is not easy, or possible, in the present scenario. In the education sector, we have faced problems with UDF, but they have been better than LDF. On the agrarian front, we had issues with recommendations of Kasturirangan committee. The stand of some people in UDF on the issue irked us. Although the UDF manifesto promises us a lot, history says manifestos are not to be relied on.

Is freedom to practice and propagate religion a new concern with BJP in power at the Centre and its influence in Kerala?

The BJP has no influence in Kerala. But at national level, the developments have been alarming. Churches have been attacked. There have been assurances, but nothing has changed. Their attitude has been aimed at building a Hindu state.

But Christian leaders have been meeting the PM and others regularly? Bishop Philipose Mar Chrysostom, Metropolitan of Mar Thoma Church has been quoted as saying he found BJP “quite ok”.

I do not know if he was quoted correctly. Our people visit him because he is the PM, not because he is a BJP man. Even BJP has different faces. BJP under Atal Bihari Vajpayee was different. The community is shaken by some policies of this BJP.

There is an allegation that the Church puts pressure on political parties to give tickets to its people.

As a principle, Church leaders do not get directly involved with politics. We may put some points before people through our teachings. Some people may feel that as a community we have not been taken into account during selection of candidates. They may speak to some leaders about it.
Every community tries to get a good representation.

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