BJP’s Christian outreach effort in Kerala leaves CPI(M) fuming, Vijayan slams Centre over Manipur violence

Meanwhile, the CPI(M) came under attack from the Church, Congress, and BJP over Cheriyan's remarks against senior Christian priests.


Published Jan 02, 2024 | 11:54 AMUpdatedJan 02, 2024 | 11:54 AM

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan

Kerala’s ruling CPI(M) is seeing red over the BJP’s Christian outreach programmes ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday, 1 January, taking on the saffron party for the violence in Manipur, allegedly targeting the minority community.

A day after CPI(M) leader and state Cultural Affairs Minister Saji Cheriyan attacked Christian priests for their alleged silence on Manipur violence during a Christmas programme organised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his official residence in New Delhi, Vijayan said that what is happening in the northeastern state is an attack equivalent to “genocide”.

In an apparent reference to the Prime Minister’s Christmas programme, the Marxist veteran said that a person holding the highest position, who had not taken any steps to prevent attacks against the minority community in Manipur, was making some “friendly moves for four votes,” and the people can understand it.

He made the statement at the Thrikkakkara Assembly segment in Kochi, while addressing a Nava Kerala Sadas programme of the Left government.

Also read: Midnight masses, festivities mark Christmas in Kerala

They understand the motives: Vijayan

Apparently slamming the Christian outreach programmes of the BJP and the party-led Union government, Vijayan said those who make such moves should understand that it would not succeed in winning over the victims.

They (the victims) understand that these initiatives are undertaken after siding with all sorts of cruelty against them, he said.

The chief minister chose Central Kerala, where Christians hold significant voting influence, to criticise the BJP for the Manipur violence.

His remarks coincided with Modi’s upcoming visit to Thrissur for a BJP-organised event in two days.

Also Read: Kerala BJP resumes ‘Sneha Yatra’ ahead of Christmas 

Cheriyan’s remarks

Meanwhile, the CPI(M) came under attack from the Church, Congress, and the BJP on Monday over Cheriyan’s remarks against senior Christian priests who attended Modi’s Christmas programme.

Strongly criticising Cheriyan’s remarks, where he suggested that the Bishops who attended the programme prioritised enjoying wine and cake over addressing the issue of violence against Christians in Manipur, a Catholic church spokesperson said persons in high positions should refrain from making such statements.

Speaking after inaugurating a CPI(M) local committee office in a village in Alappuzha on Sunday, 31 December, Cheriyan mocked the Bishops who had attended the Prime Minister’s programme, saying they got “goosebumps” when BJP leaders invited them.

In a strong response, Fr Jacob Palackappilly, spokesperson for the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC), also criticised Cheriyan and a few other Left leaders. He accused them of employing disrespectful language against Christian priests during Christmas celebrations.

Related: Archbishop seeks Modi’s intervention to address Christians’ concerns such as attacks on churches

CPI(M) criticised by Church

Responding to Cheriyan’s criticism that priests did not discuss the Manipur violence issue with Modi during the Christmas programme, the KCBC spokesperson said that it is not the role of political parties to dictate the political stance of Christians.

He questioned the minister’s motive behind linking the Christian community’s participation in the prime minister’s event to a specific political affiliation.

Palackappilly clarified that the Christmas programme was a reception organised by the Prime Minister to discuss the services provided by Christians in the country.

He also urged against adopting a negative stance on the matter and highlighted the participation of Christian priests, including bishops, as part of their commitment to the nation.

Also Read: Kerala BJP leaders visit prominent bishops in Kerala for Easter

Congress, BJP too attack CPI (M)

Meanwhile, Congress leader and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, VD Satheesan, termed Cheriyan’s remarks as “bad” and alleged that they were made with the knowledge of the Chief Minister.

The CPI(M) has unleashed a few people to slander individuals they don’t like, he told reporters in Kottayam.

“People go when the Prime Minister and chief minister invite them. It cannot be said that it is wrong. The opposition has not blamed anyone who attended the chief minister’s breakfast meeting during his New Kerala Sadas programme,” Satheesan said.

The BJP also criticised the CPI(M) leadership and chief minister over the issue.

Minister Cheriyan’s statement criticising the bishop is an insult to Kerala, senior BJP leader and Union Minister V Muraleedharan told reporters in Kozhikode.

“KCBC has clarified its position. The chief minister’s silence is an indication that Cheriyan’s statement was with his support,” he alleged.

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