AA Edit | Will Modi’s reaching out to Christians in Kerala work?

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

There are far too many reasons why wooing Christians is an attractive proposition for the BJP

Kochi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves at supporters during a roadshow, in Kochi, Monday, April 24, 2023. (Photo: PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to engage the Christian community in the country started with his visit to the Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi on Easter Sunday. This plus his follow-up meeting with church leaders in Kochi on Tuesday appears to be part of a grand plan but its success will depend on the ability of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar to reconcile differences over fundamental positions.

The church leadership has returned after talks with the Prime Minister saying it has been assured of the safety and security of every section of society even though its brethren in northern India are on a collision course with the BJP over a rise in attacks on churches, their properties and activities. It is to be seen how the Prime Minister’s words will be implemented there on the ground and whether it will have a bearing in a state which sends a large number of nuns and priests all over the country.

There are far too many reasons why wooing Christians is an attractive proposition for the BJP. It has decimated the Left in Tripura and has far outrun it in West Bengal. It will be an enchanting idea for the right wing to see the citadel of its ideological foes fall in the third and last bastion of the communists. However, given the demography of Kerala, it needs a minority community to side with this effort, and hence it is that the Christians are the chosen ‘allies’. The BJP has been consistently pointing out that Goa and Northeastern states which have sizeable Christian populations have already dropped their reservations about the saffron party and it’s time Christians in Kerala followed suit.

The BJP now has certain advantages in Kerala which it never enjoyed earlier. It is a historical fact that the church leadership, especially of various denominations of the Syrian Christians, in Kerala were a part of the state’s renaissance efforts in the last two centuries and contributed immensely to the progress of the community and Kerala society. It was a key player in keeping the secular fabric of the southern state intact as well. Unfortunately, a role reversal is happening now, especially in the numerically strong Syrian Catholic Church. It has increasingly started looking inwards for some time due to its own reasons. More dangerously, the church leadership has started publicly peddling terms such as ‘love jihad’ and ‘narcotic jihad’ against the Muslim community with very little proof. Campaigns with cherry-picked data against Muslims have been run with the active aid of the church leadership, which appears to bother little about its long term impact. Additionally, a section of the church leadership falling foul of laws has given the BJP a lever to make it fall in line with its wishes.

That the Congress unit in Kerala, which has sent the largest contingent of MPs to the present Lok Sabha, is completely clueless about its vote base being eroded also comes in handy for the BJP to make one strong effort to dislodge it from the position of the main Opposition in the state and then take aim at the LDF which at present sits cosy.

Both the Sangh Parivar and the church are long term players. It will be interesting to watch them play each other.