Wednesday, February 26, 2014

BJP Going All Out to Woo Christians

Pursuing prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s strategy of using development and corruption as the main poll plank without invoking the Hindutva slogan, the state BJP is making a vigorous bid to reach out to the Christian community ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
The party is all set for an open interaction with the community leaders and intellectuals to dispel the negative image in their minds about the BJP.  The first of this interaction with the theme ‘BJP’s Vision for Christian Brethren’ will be held on Tuesday evening in Bangalore. Retired High Court judge MF Saldanha and retired IAS officer Lucas Vallatharai among others are scheduled to participate in the event.
State BJP leadership has invited its Deputy Chief Minister in Goa, Francis DSouza to use his goodwill at the interaction.  Former  minister Suresh Kumar will explain BJP’s commitment to secularism and programmes implemented by the previous BJP government for the welfare of the community.
General Secretary of BJP Minority Morcha, Kennedy Shantakumar told Express: “Christians are a highly educated community. The previous BJP government had launched several programmes for the welfare of this community. Former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa had for the first time allocated `50 crore for their development. He had also set up Karnataka Christian Development Council. The community has many prejudices and misconceptions about the BJP. We will try to remove them through open interactions with prominent leaders of the community.”
Similar interactions would be organised in regions where there  is a significant concentration of Christian population. “The Christian community has organised an interaction with leaders of all the prominent political parties at St Mark’s Cathedral in Bangalore on March 1. The BJP wants to understand the aspirations of the Christian community,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy pointed out at  the recent developments in Kerala, where orthodox Church leaders had appreciated Modi’s development agenda.
However, the party still has a long way to go in its endeavour. This was evident when Express contacted Lucas Vellatharai, who is one of the guest listed in the BJP’s invite. “Attacks against Christians and Churches had seen a rise during the BJP regime. There are many good leaders in the BJP too. But it is the writ of the lower level leaders that runs. It will be difficult to believe the BJP unless it severs its ties with hardcore Sangh Parivar,” he said. Vellatharai also said that he could not confirm his participation at Tuesday’s interaction as he has to attend another programme on the same evening. “I will turn up only if the other programme, which I have to attend, ends early,” he said.
Counting on Community
Christians constitute about 3.1 per cent of the state’s total population. The community is in a position to play a decisive role in Bangalore Central and Dakshina Kannada Lok Sabha constituencies. The BJP had fielded H T Sangliana, a Christian as its candidate from Bangalore North Lok Sabha constituency in 2004.

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