Kerala BJP eyes political dividends from Modi’s meeting with Church heads
The recent two-day visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Kerala was marked by a slew of programmes including the ‘YUVAM’ outreach programme for youths, flagging of the first ‘Vande Bharath’ train service in Kerala, flagging of the first water metro in the country and announcing several projects of Indian railways in Kerala.
Thiruvananthapuram: The recent two-day visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Kerala was marked by a slew of programmes including the ‘YUVAM’ outreach programme for youths, flagging of the first ‘Vande Bharath’ train service in Kerala, flagging of the first water metro in the country and announcing several projects of Indian railways in Kerala.
However, one meeting stood out as it was a political meeting the Prime Minister had with the head of several churches in the state in a Kochi hotel. The meeting saw the participation of Cardinal George Alanchery, one of the most powerful and influential Church head of the Syrian Catholic Church, Cardinal Cyril Mar Baselios Clemis of the Syro-Malankara Catholic church and heads of other denominations of the Church.
It may be noted that the Cardinals have voting power for the election of the Pope and both Cardinal George Alenchery and Mar Baselios Cleemis are very powerful and influential in their own rights.
While what transpired between the Prime Minister and the Church heads inside a closed room was not revealed, BJP state President, K. Surendran who was a participant of the meeting with the Church heads, told media persons that the meeting was highly fruitful.
Days ahead for the BJP in the electoral arena of Kerala will be decided as to how the Christian community’s excellent rapport with the BJP is converted into votes. While BJP has a senior leader like George Kurien, who was the national Vice President of the Yuva Morcha (the youth body of the BJP) and currently party state general secretary in its ranks, the party is keen that Christians from all walks of life are joining the BJP.
The BJP of late has been trying to ensure that the party votes are not being polled to any other party (In earlier times, the BJP was accused of transferring its votes to the Congress in a bid to prevent the CPI-M from winning the seats).
This strategy of the BJP was opposed by several of the local level party leaders and even many hardcore RSS cadres, as they wanted to see the return of the CPI-M and Left politics in Kerala and if the BJP-RSS combine had transferred a few votes to the Congress-led UDF in some constituencies of Kerala, it would have been an easy win for the UDF.
However, after back-to-back defeats in 2016 and 2021 assembly elections, the Congress-led UDF is in a weak spot and this has helped the BJP to gain ground in the state.
A weak Congress will definitely lead to disgruntled cadres shifting their support to the BJP as CPI-M is a no-no party for many of those who supports Congress in Kerala and this would definitely be of advantage to the BJP.
In Pathanamthitta Lok Sabha constituency which has a strong Christian influence, BJP candidate was its state president, K. Surendran. While Surendran finished third in the polls, he garnered 2,97,396 votes. The winner was Anto Antony of Congress with 3,80,927 votes while the second place was secured by the present minister and CPI-M leader, Veena George who got 3,36,884 votes.
It will be easy for the BJP to win at Pathanamthitta if the Church gives a hand and the meeting at Kochi between the Prime Minister and the Church heads seems to have reached into such an agreement.
The Archbishop of Thalassery, Mar Joseph Pamplani has openly said that the Church would try to ensure that BJP gets MPs from Kerala if the rubber price is hiked to Rs 300 per kilogram as most of the farmers are depending on rubber prices.
Pathanamthitta is a constituency with a huge Christian population who are dependent on rubber and with hardly 50,000 votes more for the BJP candidate means, he can win the seat.
With BJP likely to field K. Surendran again from Pathanamthitta, the party is expecting a full hearted support from the Christian denominations and if the support transfers into votes, it will be BJP’s time of triumph in Kerala.
A new Christian political party is formed in Kerala, National People’s Party (NPP) with former member of the National Minority Commission, V.V. Augustine as its Chairman. Former Kerala Congress MLA, Johny Nellore is the working Chairman of the new party while another former MLA, Mathew Stephen is the party’s Vice Chairman.
There are reports that the new party is formed with the support and blessings of various Church denominations and this is considered as a move by the BJP to bring those Christians who cannot directly align with the BJP through this route into the NDA camp.
With BJP in an all-out move to get a foothold in Kerala, it has to be seen how the outreach with the Christians would benefit the party and the first testing time would be the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.