Christian politics at crossroads as BJP pulls strings ahead of LS Polls in Kerala
Political observers believe that a range of issues, including the growing communal divide and weakening of the UDF, are reasons for a change in the political thoughts of the Church.
KOTTAYAM: The 2024 Lok Sabha elections will serve as a crucial testing ground for realignments in state politics as the BJP begins its electoral preparations a year ahead of schedule, with a particular focus on garnering support from minority communities, including the Christian community.
Traditionally, the Church and its associated organisations have been aligned with the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). However, the BJP’s persistent efforts to make inroads into the Christian vote bank seem to be yielding results at last. A significant development in the current situation is that the Syro-Malabar Church is taking the lead, particularly in addressing the concerns of rubber farmers.
This marks the first time since the ‘vimochana samaram’ (liberation struggle) that the Church is directly involved in farmers’ politics. However, it remains to be seen whether the BJP can benefit from these developments in the current scenario.
Political observers believe that a range of issues, including the growing communal divide and weakening of the UDF, are reasons for a change in the political thoughts of the Church. This has created an unprecedented sense of insecurity among the community, which has forced the Church to take the mantle of a new political movement.
The Church has raised the price of rubber as their predominant concern, but the Church’s spokesperson, Fr. Jacob G Palackappilly, has said that there are other issues that have led the Church to take this position.
“It is a reality that both UDF and LDF turned a blind eye towards the burning issues of the farmers. Those who boast a farmers’ party are not taking a favourable stance towards farmers. There is no other option for the farmers and the Church than to deviate from the present political line,” said Fr. Jacob G Palackappilly, spokesperson of Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council.
Fr. Palackappilly has pointed out that the Church has no say in the UDF after it expelled Kerala Congress (M), and Muslim League has taken the upper hand in the UDF, destroying its basic structure. “We also lost trust in the ruling LDF when they approached the Supreme Court against the High Court order in the 80:20 ratio of minority scholarships. It is in such a situation that the Church offered conditional support to the BJP,” he added.
At the same time, Fr. Palackappilly turned down the reports on the Church’s support in floating a new political party under the aegis of a few veteran political leaders such as Johnny Nellore and George J Mathew. “Anyone can form political parties. However, the Church has its stance towards all political parties,” he said.
The BJP wanted a Christian political party in line with the Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), but the Church has expressed its reluctance to the move. Following this, Christian organisations such as Christian Association and Alliance for Social Action (CASA) also backed off from the move, even though Johnny Nellore and a few others are still going ahead with the formation of a new party, which is reportedly named as National Progressive Party(NPP).
The Church sources said discussions were progressing with the BJP concerning settling the issues such as the price fall of rubber, and it will take a final stance based on its outcome. The Church is well aware of the political fallout of its alliance with the BJP, taking into account its experience in Gujarat.
With the Church facing an existential problem in an extremely convoluted political situation, it is more likely to support the BJP, in the expectation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi would convey a message to extremist Hindu organisations to take the path of reconciliation with the Church and its organisations.