At a time when the BJP is trying to make inroads into Left-ruled Kerala, an archbishop has said that the high-range farmers of the state will vote for the BJP if the central government raises the price of rubber to ₹300 per kg, more than double the current price of ₹120.
The statement made by Thalassery archbishop Mar Joseph Pamplany at a recent farmers’ protest rally is significant, especially when the BJP is trying to woo Church leaders to garner Christian votes in the Assembly elections. Recently, Home Minister Amit Shah kicked off the BJP’s election campaign in the state by addressing a rally in Thrissur.
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“In a democracy there is no place for protests that can’t turn into votes. Whichever is the ruling party at the Centre, we will vote for you if you increase rubber price to ₹300 and procure it. Your worries that you have not even one MP from Kerala could be solved by the high-range farmers. We have no politics, but are only concerned with the suffering of our families due to acute financial stress,” Pamplany said while speaking at a protest meeting of farmers from the Catholic community against the declining prices of commodities, on Saturday (March 18).
On Sunday, Pamplany, however, clarified that his statement was not in favour of a particular party neither pointed to an alliance between the BJP and the Catholic Church. He said he didn’t make the statement on the behalf of the Catholic Church but rather gave voice to the opinions of the high-range farmers of the state.
Pamplany, clarified that he offered the votes to the BJP as it was the party in power at the Centre and that he would support any other party which offers the same to farmers.
The archbishop said rubber farmers in the state are grappling with acute financial crisis as they get barely ₹120 per kilogram of rubber in the market even though they spend around ₹220 to produce the same amount.
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“What I said was rubber farmers, who are facing a severe crisis, will support those who help them,, whether it is BJP at the Centre or LDF in the state or Congress. There are around 15 lakh families of rubber farmers in the state and they are getting only ₹120 per kg of rubber while the production cost itself is ₹220,” he said.
Pamplany’s remarks have been welcomed by the state unit of the BJP with Kerala president K Surendran stating that it reflected the people’s resentment towards the Congress and the CPI(M).
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Stating that the central government is taking initiatives to alleviate the problems faced by farmers, Surendran said the plight of rubber farmers will also be taken up.