BJP sets eye on Christian votes

June 2, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Kochi, June 02, 2017: Arriving for a three-day visit to Kerala to prepare a roadmap for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) for the Parliament elections in 2019, Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah on Friday reached out to leaders of Christian denominations in the State, assuring them that the alliance led by his party will treat the religious minorities and majority alike.

In what was described by Church leaders as a ‘cordial, informal and apolitical’ meeting convened at the request of the BJP central leadership, Mr. Shah said the minorities would not face any differential treatment from the coalition. The closed-door meeting which lasted for an hour saw Church leaders raise various issues with Mr. Shah, ranging from the release of Fr. Tom Uzhunnal, abducted by IS terrorists and detained in strife-torn Yemen, to the plight of fishermen in the wake of the latest national policy on marine fisheries, which fishers’ bodies in Kerala have decried as making way for foreign vessels to fish in India’s exclusive economic zone.

Besides Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church’s Ernakulam and Angamaly archdioceses; Joseph Kalathiparambil, Archbishop of the Varapuzha Archdiocese; Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan, head of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church; Thomas Mar Athanasius, senior Metropolitan of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church’s Chenganur dioceses; and Cyril Baselious of the Independent Syrian Church took part in the discussions.

Sources said that Mr. Shah would also meet Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, Major Archbishop-Catholicos of the Malankara Catholic Church, and Soosa Pakiam M., Archbishop of the Latin archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram, on Saturday.

This apart, head of each church denomination is expected to hold individual meetings with Mr. Shah in Delhi in the days to come. The meetings are coordinated by Sabu Varghese, former president of State BJP’s Minority Morcha.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Shah chaired a meeting of State constituents of the NDA in which it was decided to reconstitute and strengthen the alliance at the level of constituency, panchayat and booth.

“The focus was on reconstituting NDA at various levels in preparation for the Lok Sabha polls in 2019,” Thushar Vellappally, State president of the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena and convener of the NDA, told The Hindu. He said that Mr. Shah, in a casual conversation, promised that a decision on sharing of central boards and Corporations would be taken within a fortnight.

“We have already given a list to them and are now assured that appointments will be done in two or three weeks,” he said. The BDJS is learnt to be keen on securing posts of chairmen at the Spices Board and the Coconut Development Board.

The meeting did not discuss the curbs on cattle sale and slaughter, an issue for which the alliance received quite a flak in Kerala, or the impending liquor policy of the State government.

BDJS leader V. Gopakumar said the meeting also placed emphasis on promoting Central schemes in the State and the need to take on the CPI(M)-led State government to win elections.

Tribal leader and NDA constituent Janadhipathya Rashtriya Sabha head C.K. Janu said she urged Mr. Shah to get the Union government to announce a special package for Dalits, tribal groups, fishermen and plantation workers. “Such lacunae should be addressed to strengthen the alliance and to be ready for the polls. The Left and the Congress have so far turned a blind eye to Dalits and Adivasis, so what’s wrong in aligning with the BJP which has welcomed us,” she asked.

However, sources said Ms. Janu vociferously demanded better treatment from the coalition for her party at the NDA meeting and rued the delay in sharing positions on Central boards with it. “It cannot go on like this, with the Union government doing precious little to make the proposed Nanjangud- Sulthan Bathery- Nilambur railway line a reality,” she said.

– the hindu

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