BJP in bid to win over Kerala christian groups
Nirendra Dev
[email protected]
New Delhi, 1 October
In its endeavour to achieve 272 plus seats in 2014 and as the party is mulling over fielding as many as 450 candidates across the country, the BJP is now trying to make inroads in the southern state of Kerala, especially in Christian pockets.
According to party sources, BJP leaders in Kerala have already reached out to smaller Christian groups like Protestants and influential Catholic groups.
“We want to make an entry into Kerala where the BJP has never won a seat,” a key party functionary told The Statesman, adding that the party has, however, done well in a few parliamentary seats in 2004.
Kerala has about 20 per cent Christians and 25 per cent Muslims and the 56.2 per cent Hindus vote either for the Congress or communists. Traditionally, Christians have voted for Congress or smaller parties like Kerala Congress.
Encouraged by the good response to Mr Narendra Modi during his recent visit, BJP leaders have reached out to leaders of one small Christian sub-sect Marthoma Syrian Church group. A prominent leader of the group, Philipose Mar Chrystostom, shared the dais with Mr Modi during the birthday celebrations of Mata Amritanandamai on 26 September, sources said.
The  BJP in Kerala has on earlier occasions polled about 6.5 per cent votes. But party strategists now feel besides appealing to Hindus in Kerala, the BJP this time has a chance to move closer to Catholics as well.
The party feels it can put up a good performance in constituencies like Thiruvananthapuram and Neyyatinkara while more ambitious leaders in the state BJP recently told the party president, Mr Rajnath Singh, that the BJP can put up a better show in constituencies like Ernakulam, Kottayam and Thrichur if Catholic Christians are won over.
The party has also dropped hints about fielding former Union minister O Rajagopal, who had earlier been a Rajya Sabha member from Madhya Pradesh. Mr Rajagopal had lost the seat to the Congress nominee in 2004 by a slender margin of 3000 votes.
However, it would not be easy for the BJP to win over Christian groups as influential Church leaders in the state still lament the attack on Christians in Odisha&’s Kandhamal.