Former Union defence minister and senior Congress leader AK Antony’s son Anil K Antony joined the BJP on the 44th foundation day of that party on Thursday, 6 April.
An emotional Antony Senior, 82, said he was “hurt” by his son’s decision and promised to continue fighting the “destructive policies of the BJP and the RSS” till his “last breath”.
His party, meanwhile, drew a Biblical parallel, likening the son’s “betrayal” of his father on Maundy Thursday to Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Christ for 30 pieces of silver at the Last Supper the night before Good Friday, the day he was crucified.
Switching parties in Delhi
Anil has been critical of the Congress in general and Rahul Gandhi in particular after he quit the party on 25 January, a day after rapping a BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He was attached to the Digital Media Cell of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) and the AICC’s Social Media and Digital Communication Cell.
The former Congress leader accepted the BJP’s primary membership from Union Consumer Affairs, Food, and Distribution Minister Piyush Goyal at 3 pm.
Kerala BJP state secretary K Surendran and Union Minister of State for Foreign Affairs V Muraleedharan were with Anil when he took the membership at the party’s headquarters on Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg in New Delhi.
Shri @anilkantony joins BJP in presence of Shri @PiyushGoyal at party headquarters in New Delhi. #JoinBJP https://t.co/yQXskBy8JM
— BJP (@BJP4India) April 6, 2023
Also read: Crisis in Congress amidst plans to screen BBC’s Modi documentary
Modi has a clear vision: Anil
After accepting the membership, Anil addressed the media in Hindi, English, and Malayalam.
“These days, some Congress leaders and workers believe that their dharma (duty) is to work for a family, but I think my virtue is to work for the nation,” he said.
He also stated that Prime Minister Modi has a clear vision to make India a developed nation in the next 25 years.
“[T]he Central government and the BJP led by Amit Shah-ji and [JP] Nadda-ji are working tirelessly to take this vision and all these people-friendly policies to every nook and corner of the country,” he said.
“Young India represents the majority of the country. As a young Indian, I do think that it is my responsibility and duty to contribute towards Prime Minister’s vision for nation building and national integration,” he added.
He expressed happiness over joining the BJP on its 44th foundation day.
Also read: Tharoor and I said the same thing, says Anil Antony
Anil believes in India First: Goyal
Goyal said Anil was a multi-faceted personality, and that he was impressed by his credentials. The minister then read out his academic qualifications.
Goyal also called Anil an “outstanding political warrior who is concerned about the future of Kerala and India and someone who believes in India First”.
“Antony was truly insulted (by the Congress party) by the behaviour meted out to him for standing up for India and national pride,” the minister said.
“Therefore he had to leave the Congress and I compliment him for his boldness and strength and conviction that on the matter of principles, he stood he for the nation,” Goyal said.
Criticism of BBC documentary
It was Anil’s criticism of the BBC documentary that brought him closer to the BJP.
He had tweeted his displeasure over a controversial BBC documentary, India: The Modi Question. Anil decided to resign after he received “intolerant calls” to retract the tweet — which he didn’t.
Speaking to South First soon after his resignation, Anil stated that “A lot of my friends and well-wishers were very excited about this documentary and I do understand them. But I had some concerns. The main one is, the documentary is from Jack Straw and he, as the British foreign secretary, was one of the master brains behind the Iraq war. And that war resulted in deaths and displacement of millions of people.”
He added: “I think every Indian citizen should have these concerns. In the tweet itself, although it was interpreted in many ways, I said I have many political differences with the BJP.”
Anil continued: “However, as far as this documentary is concerned, in the last few days, some kind of narrative has been created in this country, and I thought that kind of narration, in the long run, would undermine our national interest.”
“At this moment I don’t have any political plans. I am focusing on my professional activities and working on my entrepreneurship. I am not thinking about anything in politics. I resigned from all active offices but I remain a primary member. I do not have any other political plans,” he had then told South First.
Also read: End of the AK Antony-Oommen Chandy era
Hurt, says AK Antony
Responding to Anil joining the BJP, his father AK Antony said he was hurt. “It was a wrong decision,” he told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.
“The founding stones of our nation are its plurality and secularism. Ever since the Modi government came to power, our policies have been intentionally subverted. Our country shifted to monocracy after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls'” the leader said.
“The result is that the people’s unity has weakened and fragmented. This is a dangerous situation,” he opined.
“As far as I am concerned, I will fight these destructive policies of the BJP and the RSS till my last breath,” he asserted.
On Anil’s statement that several Congress leaders were serving one family, Antony said the Nehru family viewed all Indians as equals irrespective of caste, religion, locality, language, colour or race.
“Even today, despite the witch hunt against the members of that family, they are boldly fighting to defend the Indian Constitution. I am in the last phase of life. I am 82 years old, I know how long I will live. I am not interested in a long life, As long as I live, I will be an activist of the Indian National Congress,” he said.
“I am not ready for any further discussions on Anil. This will be my first and final response on this issue,” he added.
The Christian vote equation
Anil chose to join the BJP even as Christians across the world were observing Maundy Thursday.
Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president K Sudhakaran was quick to point it out, saying Anil joined the BJP “on the day Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver”.
Sudhakaran likening Anil to Judas Iscariot was not without reason. The BJP has been going all out to woo Christians in Kerala.
The Church has also offered support if the saffron party protected its interests. Both prominent alliances in Kerala — the UDF and LDF — have been viewing the Church’s overtures towards the BJP with trepidation.
Archbishop of Tellicherry (Thalassery) Mar Joseph Pamplany recently offered the BJP the support of his community in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls if the Union government increased the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for natural rubber to ₹300.
The BJP, too, has been supporting the rubber farmers — the majority belonging to the Christian community. Christians constitute 18.38 percent of the state’s total population.
The BJP has also supported the fishermen in Thiruvananthapuram, who protested against the Adani Group’s seaport at Vizhinjam. The fishermen rose up under the Latin Catholic Church.
Winning the confidence of Christians could swing votes in several constituencies, especially in central Kerala, in favour of the BJP.
As part of its plan to woo Christians, the Minority Morcha of the BJP is expected to take out a trek to the St Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic International Shrine at Malayattoor (Malayattoor Church) on Good Friday, 7 April.
BJP state vice-president AN Radhakrishnan will reportedly lead the yatra to Malayattoor.
Believers carrying huge wooden crosses trek to the Church atop a steep hillock in Malayattoor, replicating Jesus’ pain and suffering for humanity while he carried the cross to Golgotha — or Calvary — where he was crucified.
AK Antony, however, is a self-proclaimed atheist. Anil has not yet revealed his affinity towards the Church.
Whether Anil joining the BJP would swing Christian votes in the party’s favour is yet to be seen. He has not been active in Kerala and does not have grassroots-level contacts like Chandy Oommen.
However, the development could affect the morale of the Congress since Anil’s father has been a towering figure in the state’s politics.