Thiruvananthapuram : The Narendra Modi magic seems to have not worked with the Church in Kerala, where the Christians constitute nearly 20 per cent of the population.
Majority of the bishops are wooed by the state-level leaders of the party in their bid to build a bridge to the nearly 60 lakhs Christian community gave the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP a miss when he came to the state on Sunday to kick off the party’s poll campaign.
Only two bishops of the Orthodox Church, which has only few pockets of influence in the state, have responded to the BJP call. One of the two bishops was in fact from Modi’s home turf of Ahmedabad. The two did not give any indication of any shift in the political stance of the Orthodox Church, which traditionally supported the Congress-led United Democratic Front.
Thomas Mar Atanasius and Geevarghese Mar Yulios, Metropolitans of Chengannur and Ahmedabad dioceses of the Orthodox Church termed their visit of Modi at the Government guest house at Kochi strictly personal. However, Mar Athanasius said he will be personally happy if Modi was elected as Prime Minister.
The Ahmedabad Metropolitan, who has been maintaining close ties with Modi, has been trying to take the Church to the BJP fold. Though the head of the Church had early praised Modi’s developmental initiatives in Gujarat, he sought to disassociate himself from meeting the Gujarat Chief Minister during his visit to the state.
Political observers feel that the visit was intended to serve a message to the Congress that it cannot take its support granted. The Church, has a following of 12 lakhs, has been aggrieved with the Congress-led government for allegedly siding with the rival Jacobite faction in their pestering dispute over the division of churches and their properties.
Modi’s colleagues in the state had made frantic efforts to bring bishops from the three Catholic rites to Modi, as they represent the majority of the Christians in Kerala. They had claimed that a number of them would meet Modi at Cochin. However, they chose not to meet Modi even though they are angry with the UPA government over implementation of the Kasthurirangan report.
The state leadership of the BJP has been trying to court the bishops as they play an important role in shaping the political opinion of the community. The bishops used to make their electoral preferences known to the faithful through pastoral letters.
However, most bishops stopped this practice after the Church revised their perception of Communists as atheists.