BJP to try Goa model to attract Kerala Christians

Thiruvananthapuram (Matters India): The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian people’s party), considered to be pro-Hindu, is trying to win various Christian denominations in Kerala.

The southern Indian state is getting ready to elect its 140-member legislative assembly in 2016.

The BJP’s new leadership in Kerala is headed by Kummanam Rajasekharan, former president of the Hindu Aikyavedi (Hindu unity forum), a rightwing group.

Since his election in mid December, Rajasekharam has tried to build up a pro-minority image and create a milieu conducive for engaging different denominations, reports The Hindu newspaper.

The BJP leadership, the paper says, is keen on replicating the Goa model, where the party had won the support Christians to wrest power.

A similar experiment is expected to reap considerable gains in central Kerala and in Thiruvananthapuram in south, where the party hopes to put up an impressive performance.

Christians form 19 percent of Kerala’s 34.8 million people whereas they are 25 percent among Goa’s 1.82 million people. Unlike Goa where Christians are almost entirely Catholic of the Latin rite, Christians in Kerala are divided into numerous denominations. Even Catholics are divided into Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara rites.

The move to woe Christians in Kerala comes in the backdrop BJP joining a third political alternative proposed for the state. The party now supports the fledgling Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (people’s army of Indian culture) led by Vellappally Natesan.

Natesan heads the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, a charitable society started 102 years ago by social reformer Sree Narayana Guru for the spiritual and educational advancement of the Ezhava, a backward community.

Meanwhile, Christians in Kerala seem worried about the Hindu groups renewed plan to build a temple at the site of a razed 16th century mosque in Ayodhya, a northern Indian town.

The BJP in Kerala has reportedly taken a strong Hindutva (Hindunness) stance.

Therefore the BJP’s first tactical move has to be to allay their concerns, build bridges and then start discussions prior to the Assembly elections, some party leaders say.

Since the Christian community is seriously concerned about the attitudinal change of the national leadership, the initiative being taken up with the blessings of the Sangh Parivar, may not elicit a warm response in the initial phase.

But the state leadership exudes confidence in bringing them round by offering protection of the federal government as well as the national leadership from the attack on the churches by Hindu fringe groups.

The BJP state leadership is conscious of the challenges in making an intrusion into the Muslim vote bank in Malabar region and thinks that it will be much more pragmatic to secure Christians’ confidence.

According to party sources, frequent interactions with prominent leaders such as Cardinal Baselios Cleemis will help to dispel the inhibitions and lend credibility to its entreaties for mutual support.

A direct engagement between the Church and the party leadership is being considered as a wise option for making a dent in the bipolar politics of the State.

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