Debating India

When ’God’s men’ join BJP

SHOBHA JOHN

Sunday 25 April 2004, by SHOBHA*John

NEW DELHI: Is the BJP no longer an anathema for minorities? Close on the heels of Muslim leaders like Imam Bukhari softening their stance, BJP has roped in the clergy in Kerala.

In a state where Christians constitute 20 per cent of the population, the party has managed to woo four priests. The party hopes that the laity will follow suit.

The entrants are Rev Abraham Thomas and Rev Thomas David (Church of South India), Rev T J Kochuparambil (Anglican) and Pastor K Charly John (Pentecostal).

The party has never been able to make a dent in this state. In the 1999 LS polls, BJP contested 14 of the 20 seats, but couldn’t win a single seat.

But state BJP president P S Shreedharan Pillai says, "The trend is changing."What enticed 68-year-old Abraham Thomas to an ’anti-minority’ party? "Development in the last five years," he says from Kochi. Plus, the tenures of LDF and UDF were highly-politicised and fraudulent, he says.

But can a person of God take to politics? "I am doing Christ’s work better this way." He is campaigning for Union minister O Rajagopal, who is contesting from Thiruvananthapuram.

Thomas David (58) says from the state capital, "I am now a missionary among politicians." Thomas speaks the Parivar language. Ask him about the Gujarat riots and he asks about Godhra.

Ask him about the vandalising of churches and he asks why conversions take place. Ask him about radical elements in the Sangh Parivar and he says, "Fringe elements are there in every party."

For David, it was groupism in the state Congress that made him take this plunge. What incentives did he get for joining BJP? He laughs, "The party bears my expenses, that’s it."

The top clergy, however, is not too happy with the development. His Grace Job Mar Philoxenos, one of the Metropolitans of the Orthodox Syrian Church, asserts, "The main concern of the clergy should be to give spiritual leadership."

He referred to the last assembly elections where CPM had fielded Fr Mathai Noornal. "Not only did he lose the polls, he lost all his possessions and respect."

The laity too has not taken kindly to the priests joining BJP. "They feel let down and asked what had gone wrong with me," says Thomas.

David too has been ostracised; he no longer conducts service in his home church. John Samuel, a CSI member, says, "These priests are not seeing BJP’s castiest tendencies. Christians won’t fall for this."

Only time will tell if BJP’s prize catches will remove its pariah status in God’s Own Country.

See online : The Times of India

P.S.

in The Times of India, Sunday, April 25, 2004.

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