‘Jesus is real God,’ Kanyakumari pastor tells Rahul Gandhi, sparks row

BJP targets Congress over a video clip of Rahul Gandhi's interaction with controversial Catholic priest George Ponnaiah during the ongoing ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra,’ Congress hits back

Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi is leading the Congress Party's 150-day-long 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' Twitter/Congress

A video clip of Rahul Gandhi’s interaction with a pastor in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu during the ongoing ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ has sparked row. Gandhi met pastor George Ponnaiah at the Muttidichan Parai Church at Puliyoorkurichy, where he camped for a morning break on Friday. In the video, Rahul Gandhi can be heard asking: “Jesus Christ is a form of God? Is that right?”. To this, priest Ponniah replies, “He is the real God… God reveals him(self) as a man, a real person…not like Shakti…so we see a human person.” Sharing the video on social media, several BJP leaders questioned the motives of the Congress’ Bharat Jodo Yatra.

“This man was arrested for his Hindu hatred earlier — he also said ‘I wear shoes because impurities of Bharat Mata should not contaminate us.’ Bharat Jodo with Bharat Todo icons?” wrote BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla, while sharing the clip of their conversation on Twitter. The Congress, in turn, accused the BJP of running a “hate factory, alleging that the successful launch of the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ had rattled them and had made them desperate.

Several other BJP leaders jumped on the bandwagon, using the video as the new ammunition to target the Congress. Another BJP spokesperson, Sambit Patra, also shared the video and asked how this could be part of a Bharat Jodo campaign. “Denouncing one religion for the appeasement of the other.. This ‘Hindu Hatred’ of the Congress in general and Rahul in particular is no more a clandestine affair,” Patra wrote on T. “…Rahul wears it on his sleeves with pride!” Amit Malviya tweeted: “If meeting a controversial pastor, who is known for his visceral disdain for the majority community and their beliefs, Rahul Gandhi’s idea of ‘Bharat Jodo’, then this Yatra is nothing but a sham. How can indulging faith supremacists serve the larger society and bring cohesion?”

Also read: Bharat Jodo Yatra: Rahul charms people in Kanyakumari


Accusing the BJP of spreading “mischief”, the Congress said that the tweet shared by the BJP leaders bore no relation whatsoever to what was recorded in the audio. “An atrocious tweet from the BJP hate factory is doing the rounds. It bears no relation whatsoever to what is recorded in the audio. This is typical BJP mischief that has become more desperate after the successful launch of Bharat JodoYatra which is evoking such a huge response,” Jairam Ramesh, Congress general secretary in charge of communications, tweeted. “We have issued the full text of what was said,” he added. “People who were responsible for the killing of Mahatma Gandhi and the murders of people like Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh are raising questions! What a morbid joke! Such attempts to damage the spirit of #BharatJodoYatra will fail miserably!” he tweeted.

The pastor was arrested from Kallikudi, Madurai, in July last year for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Hindus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court granted bail to him in August.
The Congress party’s ambitious 150-day-long ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra,’ led by Gandhi, began on September 7 from Kanyakumari. The Yatra will include padayatras, rallies, and public meetings which will be attended by senior Congress leaders, including Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.