BJP to follow ‘Christ path’ to make more electoral inroads in Kerala

With Modi's statement on a possible coalition in Kerala, the Parivar's plan to make inroads into the Christian population seems to be entering its next phase

PM Modi, Kerala Bishop
PM Narendra Modi was very keen on hosting Bishop Andrews Thazhath, the president of the Catholic Bishops Congress of India (CBCI), a couple of months before, to discuss the papal visit to India. Pic: Twitter

The BJP has been striving to make its presence felt in Kerala’s political scene by reaching out to the Christian community for quite a long time now. However, the saffron party has not been able to capture the imagination of the community so far. What with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent statement about a possible coalition to bring his party to power in Kerala, the Sangh Parivar’s plans to make inroads into the influential Christian population seem to be entering its next phase.

“During Easter, members of the BJP will visit the Christian houses in Kerala to spread joy on this special day. We will also extend an invitation for them to join us to celebrate Vishu at our homes,” said former Union minister Prakash Javadekar, who is in charge of the party in Kerala, making their plans very clear.

One thing was pretty clear from Modi’s address to the party workers and Javadekar’s press conference – the BJP is trying to exclusively woo the Christian minority. In Kerala, the Muslims constitute 26.56 per cent of the total population and the Christians 18.38 per cent, according to the 2011 census.

Pitting Christians against Muslims


The BJP will be trying to cash in on the growing anti–Islamic sentiments among a section of Christians, which is manifested through the Christian Association and Alliance for Social Change (CASA), a little-known organisation until a few years ago. The organisation with somewhat radical world views has been seen at the centre of every controversy involving Christianity in Kerala recently. They often claim to have intervened in almost 100 ‘love jihad’ cases and ‘rescued’ many Christian girls, who drifted away from the religion.

The organisation more or less shares the ideas propagated by the Sangh Parivar and enjoy the support of a section of the church also. Moreover, the RSS long-term plans to start a Christian outfit have not materialised as expected.

Also read: Kerala Muslim community split over RSS meet with Jamaat leaders

“Love Jihad is true,” said a priest of one of the major Orthodox churches in eastern Alappuzha. ‘”They (Muslims) want to have high IQ kids for the next generation, that’s why our girls are targeted,” he added. He was so convinced about this already debunked theory, which had gone around in the WhatsApp ecosystem.

M B Rajesh, the state minister for local government and excise, told The Federal, “There was a deliberate attempt from the Sangh Parivar to pit the Christian minority against the Muslims. The ‘love jihad’ campaign was specifically designed for this purpose and a small section might have fallen for it. But, the Christian community as a whole, is well aware of the situation. They are watching the Hindutva forces attacking churches in the northern parts of the country, and they would not fall in the trap set by these same forces.”

A pipe dream

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also echoed the same sentiments, in his tweet in response to PM Modi’s claim, which he dubbed as a ‘pipe dream’.

“PM Modi’s claim that BJP will win in Kerala is nothing but a pipe dream. BJP’s political manoeuvre in Kerala will remain a quixotic quest, as we reject all kinds of divisive or communal politics. Our secular ideals will take roots and spread throughout the nation soon,” read his tweet.

“The people of Kerala have gained sufficient knowledge and insight to perceive the BJP’s deceptive nature. They are conscious of the mistreatment that minority groups in the country have endured and are aware of the groups responsible for it. Those who have suffered persecution and harassment from the Sangh Parivar cannot suddenly support the BJP. Although, some may align themselves with the BJP for short-term benefits, it would be a mistake to assume that they represent the minority community as a whole,” Pinarayi Vijayan explained it further in a face book post.

Opposition leader V D Satheesan too was in no mood to accept the PM’s big claim. “The BJP central leadership, including the PM does not know how politics in Kerala works,” he said.

Also read: ‘BJP has become destructive force’: Kerala CM Vijayan attacks Modi, Shah

BJP’s Christian outreach over the years

BJP’s bonhomie with the Christian minority and parties representing them has a history of at least two decades. Interestingly, the one and only Lok Sabha member that the NDA had from Kerala was P C Thomas, who contested as the candidate of Indian Federal Democratic Party (IFDP), a breakaway faction of the Kerala Congress, even though his election was later declared invalid by the Supreme Court. Thomas, incidentally parted ways with the NDA (more than once) and is with the Kerala Congress (J), which is a part of the UDF now.

PM Narendra Modi was very keen on hosting Bishop Andrews Thazhath, the president of the Catholic Bishops Congress of India (CBCI), a couple of months earlier, to discuss the papal visit to India. Sources in the party has confirmed that the party leadership is in constant touch with the Kerala church, especially the Catholics.

“The Christian outreach cannot be viewed in the light of electoral politics. For us and the Sangh, anyone who is born in India are equal, and we are in touch with them and will continue to do it,” Sandeep Vachaspati, BJP state spokesman told The Federal.

The NDA’s vote share dropped in the last assembly election, despite the BJP alone gaining a little more votes, as compared to the assembly elections in 2016. Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), the political arm of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), an organisation of the Ezhava community, had been a BJP ally, but could not pull off a decent show last time. However, the SNDP general secretary Vellappalli Nateshan, who has been keeping a distance from the BDJS off late, seems to be disillusioned by the Modi government.

“It’s natural for the Prime Minister to dream about forming a government in Kerala, but every dream need not materialise,” said Vellappalli on the PM’s remark on winning the Kerala elections.

“One thing is clear from the PM’s claim, they are targeting Kerala,” affirmed M B Rajesh, the state minister. “They will do anything and everything for that. It’s there in the agenda of the RSS, which had resolved it in a high-level meeting held at Coimbatore, sometime back. Now we can expect every sort of game from the central agencies. But, we are prepared and we will organise the people, educate them against these sinister moves,” added the minister.

Even though the BJP is now attempting to avoid the political parties and minor groups as intermediaries between them and the church, many feel that the ruling party of the country would next even reach out to Jose K. Mani, who is in the LDF now.

“We don’t expect him to leave the LDF now, but we are not ruling out any possible scenario,” a CPI(M) leader told  The Federal. Meanwhile, the BJP is attempting to convert anti-incumbency and anti-Muslim sentiments into votes in their favour, and they have chosen the path of the Christ as their current tactical stance.