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A 'surprise' minister for many, a cold calculation for the Sangh

Party member since the inception of BJP, George Kurian’s appointment in the Modi government is part of the saffron strategy to woo Christians and make inroads into Kerala
Last Updated : 22 June 2024, 22:19 IST

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Thiruvananthapuram/New Delhi: Unlike most minority community members of the BJP who have joined the saffron outfit in its prime after spending years in other parties, George Kurian's record is different.

In 1980, at the age of 19, the young devout Christian defied conventions to join the newborn BJP along with a group of Jan Sangh leaders in Kerala.

He stood firm in his political convictions despite his family and friends being averse to his new affiliation. BJP was a political pariah in Kerala though RSS had its 'shakhas' across the state. It was the heady days of the Congress and the Left in Kerala.

Forty-four years later, Kurian, a post graduate in Hindi and a law-degree holder, saw himself being sworn in as a Minister of State in Narendra Modi's team. He has been assigned ministries of fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying as well as minority affairs.

His elevation was a surprise for many Keralites and even for Kurian and his family, which includes his ex-military nurse wife and two sons, but not for those in the Sangh echo-system. 

He didn't contest the Lok Sabha election this time and was not expecting a ministerial post though he was known to the present BJP top echelons due to his previous stints in various capacities and as a translator for Hindi-speaking BJP leaders visiting Kerala. 

Not new to Delhi, Kurian served as Officer on Special Duty when Kerala BJP veteran O Rajagopal was a minister in the AB Vajpayee government and later in the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) as its Vice Chairperson.

Cold political calculations marked by an outreach to Christians in Kerala and acknowledging a steadfast 'karyakarta', who is uncompromisingly wedded to the Sangh ideology, led to his elevation.

This happened when all were expecting that only Suresh Gopi, a cine superstar who opened the Lok Sabha account for the BJP in Kerala, would be part of Modi's team. The choice of Kurian in the ministry without him being an MP showed how important his entry was for the BJP.

Kurian's appointment is widely believed as a sort of BJP’s thanksgiving to a section of Christian voters who is believed to have contributed to Gopi's victory in Thrissur by defeating both the Congress and Left candidates.

Amplifier and defender

As the NCM member, Kurian was seen defending the BJP and helping it reach out to the church leadership in Kerala. Its earlier inductees like Alphonse Kannanthanam or Tom Vadakkan could not add much on this count. 

Kurian amplified what is seen as divisive campaigns, including one on 'love jihad' that was supported by a section in the Christian church. The Sangh Parivar had been in the forefront of this campaign accusing Muslim youths of luring girls of other faiths into marriage for using them in terror activities though Amit Shah-led Ministry of Home Affairs had said in Parliament that it did not find any evidence to back up the allegations.

Kurian also often became the BJP's face of defence in Kerala on issues like the violence against Christians in Manipur during the ongoing ethnic conflict and in other parts of the country by right-wing outfits. 

Starting his political journey after being swayed by socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan during his student days, Kurian got attracted to Sangh Parivar through RSS and Jana Sangh activists who were part of the Janata Party. He was then a student at KE College at Mannanam in Kottayam. His first assignment was to set up a unit of the Bharatiya Vidyarthi Morcha at the Government College, Kottayam.

Afterwards, Kurian's political career graph kept on rising as he was appointed to various positions in the Yuva Morcha and in the state and national units of BJP. At present a vice president of Kerala BJP, Kurian has been acting as a bridge between the church leadership, especially the Catholics, and the BJP. 

As the saffron leader has to find a way into Parliament within six months of becoming a minister, he is likely to be nominated by the BJP in one of the ten vacant seats in Rajya Sabha.

Electoral politics, however, is not new for Kurian as he has fought Lok Sabha elections twice from Kottayam and Assembly election once from Puthuppally. 

In the 1991 Lok Sabha election, he came third in Kottayam with 22,622 votes. He once again tried his luck in Kottayam in 1998 and managed to almost double his votes to 42,830 from 1991, but finished third. He fought against the then chief minister Oommen Chandy in the Puthuppally Assembly seat in 2016 where again he came third with 15,993 votes.

For the BJP, Kurian's elevation is indeed like hitting two birds with one stone — pleasing the BJP cadres of Kerala by inducting a non-controversial leader acceptable to all factions and further fueling the saffron party's efforts to woo Christians, who are around 18 per cent of the state's population. To make inroads, the BJP needs to court a minority community in Kerala and it has chosen the Christians.

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Published 22 June 2024, 22:19 IST

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