Kerala BJP leaders visit prominent bishops in Kerala for Easter

V Muraleedharan visited Archbishop Thomas J Netto, and BJP national committee member PK Krishna Das met with Archbishop Mar Joseph Pamplany.

BySouth First Desk

Published Apr 09, 2023 | 6:33 PM Updated Apr 09, 2023 | 6:34 PM

BJP Kerala Christian

Senior BJP leaders in Kerala visited the homes of various prominent bishops in Kerala on Sunday, 9 April, on the occasion of Easter.

The move is being seen as a bid to forge close ties with the Christian community in the state as part of the BJP’s political strategy to woo minority communities ahead of the 2024 general elections.

The Opposition Congress in Kerala termed the BJP visits to bishops’ homes as “mockery” and said it indicated the saffron party’s “double standards”.

National leaders meet Christian leaders

While Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan visited Archbishop of the Latin Catholic Archdiocese of Trivandrum Thomas J Netto, BJP national executive committee member PK Krishna Das met Thalassery Archbishop Mar Joseph Pamplany in the Kannur district of the state.

“A fruitful interaction on the auspicious occasion of #EasterSunday. Met Archbishop of Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum – His Grace Most Rev.Dr.Thomas J Netto & conveyed warm greetings & best wishes,” Muraleedharan tweeted about his visit.

However, both BJP leaders downplayed any political motives behind their visits and said it was just a friendly meeting on the festive occasion.

“It was just a friendly visit on the occasion of Easter,” Muraleedharan said after meeting Bishop Netto.

Krishna Das, after his visit with Pamplany in Kannur, told reporters that he went there only to convey his wishes.

“There were only friendly discussions, not political,” he said, adding that the visit was in accordance with the party’s national executive’s decision and was being followed across the country.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited cathedrals in Delhi,” Krishna Das noted.

Also read: AK Antony ‘hurt’ as son Anil joins the BJP

Part of ‘Sneha Yatra’

BJP leader AP Abdullakutty claimed that the visits were part of the party’s national-level campaign “Sneha Yatra” to make space in the hearts and minds of the minority communities.

“It is not a yatra for votes. It is to get close to them, into their hearts and minds. It is also meant to indicate that this party is not against minority communities,” he said.

The visits also assume importance in the wake of veteran Congress leader AK Antony’s son Anil joining the saffron party and Pamplany’s statement last month that if the Centre promised to increase the price of rubber procurement to ₹300 per kilogram, the BJP’s dearth of an MP from Kerala would be addressed.

Anil, who headed the Digital Media Cell of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee, quit the Congress two months ago after criticising the party’s stand on the controversial documentary film by the BBC on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and slammed the Congress leadership for working for a “single-family” instead of for the country.

Archbishop of Thalassery Mar Joseph Pamplany knows well that the BJP has been eyeing a share of the Christian votes.

He made a promise to back the BJP in the Lok Sabha coming polls in 2024 if it increased the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for natural rubber to ₹300.

Related: Will rubber politics bing Christians closer to BJP in Kerala?

‘BJP can decide’

“Being the party in power at the Centre, the BJP can decide the policy. The rubber-growing families are getting only ₹120 per kg for the product,” the influential archbishop said while addressing a farmers’ meeting at Alakode in the Kannur district on 18 March.

“The production cost is estimated to be ₹220. If the Centre ensures ₹300 per kg of rubber, the farmers affiliated to us would ensure an MP for the BJP from the state,” local newspapers quoted Pamplany as saying.

The prelate said farmers would vote for any political formation if they received a minimum support price of ₹300 per kg for natural rubber.

He also told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that such a support price would end his regret about not having a single MP from Kerala.

Besides that, after BJP’s poll performance in three minority-dominated northeastern states recently, Modi had said that his party’s alliance would form a government in Kerala considering the increasing support of minorities for it.

Also read: Will Kerala’s rubber politics take the Christian community to BJP?

‘More will join BJP’

Kerala BJP president K Surendran said that more Congress and CPI(M) leaders would join his party in the coming days. He also claimed that the BJP would form a government in the South Indian state.

On the other hand, Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the state assembly VD Satheesan said that BJP leaders of Kerala visiting bishops on Easter was meant to hide the saffron party’s anti-Christian attitude and the atrocities committed against the minority community.

Satheesan alleged that a BJP state minister from Karnataka recently made adverse comments against the Christians and a similar attitude was being shown by the saffron party against the community in other parts of the country.

He also alleged that in the last four years, around 600 churches in various parts of the country were attacked and even Christmas worship was disrupted.

On Saturday, KPCC chief K Sudhakaran took a dig at the state BJP’s plan to reach out to Christian families on the day of Easter by comparing it with “Dhritrashtra Alingana”— the deadly hug by Kuru king Dhritarashtra of an idol of Bheem in the Mahabharata.

(With PTI inputs)