BJP targets Kerala's Christian vote bank with PM's help

BJP targets Kerala's Christian vote bank with PM Modi's intervention

PM Narendra Modi. Credit: PTI/videograb.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself initiating talks with Christian factions of Kerala to address their grievances, the BJP is expecting to make inroads into the Christian vote banks of Kerala, which is quite vital for having electoral gains in Kerala.

Moreover, if the Prime Minister manages to find any solution to the decades old power tussle between Orthodox and Jacobite factions of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church over control on churches, that would be a major gain for BJP as the CPM and Congress led governments that had been ruling Kerala over these years could not find a solution to the tussle.

Mizoram Governor P S Sreedharan Pillai, who is a BJP leader from Kerala, said on Thursday that the Prime Minister would hold talks with the leaders of the Christian factions to find a solution to their grievances. Apart from addressing the decades-old power tussle between two factions over control of churches, the Prime Minister would be also looking into grievances of the Christian community over the Centre's allocation for minority welfare activities, Pillai said.

Christian community constitutes nearly 20 per cent of Kerala's population, Muslims 27 per cent and Hindus 53 per cent as per the 2011 Census. Hence the support of any minority community is crucial to have electoral gains in Kerala.

There is a general impression, rather a fear, among the Christian and Muslim communities, that BJP is anti-Muslim and anti-Christian. BJP's moves like elevation of Muslim leaders like A P Abdullahkutty as national vice president were considered as efforts to shed the anti-Muslim tag of BJP. Similarly, the present move to make the Prime Minister himself intervening to address the grievances of the Christian community was also considered as step to shed the anti-Christian tag of the saffron party.

Senior political analyst Josukutty C A told DH that Prime Minister's intervention to settle the issues among the Christian community could be seen as a political move of BJP. For making electoral gains in Kerala, it is important for political parties to have support of any of the minority communities. BJP is trying to send a message that they were not against the minority communities and were concerned of their grievances too. Even for the saffron party, in electoral politics it is vote banks and power that matters rather than its Hindutva ideologies, he said.

The Christian factions have already welcomed the Prime Minister's intervention.

The power tussle between the Orthodox and Jacobite faction has been a major issue prevailing in Kerala over the last many decades. Though the Supreme Court ordered in 2017 to give control of about 1,100 churches to the Orthodox faction, the government is maintaining a dilly dallying strategy as it did not want to invite the wrath of Jacobite faction by forcefully enforcing the order.

Even as Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan himself initiated talks with both the factions to find an amicable settlement, both factions were adamant on their stand. While Orthodox faction wants to implement the SC order giving them control over churches, the Jacobite faction wants to have a law mandating referendum among members of each parish to decide the control of the each church.

Josukutty said that if the Prime Minister manages to find any sorts of amicable solution to it, it would be a major political advantage for the BJP. Even if the BJP takes a stand favouring one section, the party can at least gain the support of that section as it was not getting support of either sections now, he said.