HomeNationBJP aims to build Christian connections through George Kurian 

BJP aims to build Christian connections through George Kurian 

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After a long wait, the BJP made an electoral breakthrough in Kerala with actor-turned-politician Suresh Gopi romping home with an impressive margin in Thrissur in the just-concluded Lok Sabha polls. As expected, Suresh Gopi has been made a minister of state in the Narendra Modi 3.0 government. 

Politically more significant, however, is the induction of George Kurian in the ministry, going by the state’s political and demographic features. On a personal level, Kurian’s is a case of rewarding persistence and perseverance. He has been in the BJP for long, regardless of its bleak electoral prospects in the down south state. He has been one of the few minority faces of the BJP. 

Calm, composed and soft-spoken, Kurian is often seen defending the party in media conversations. But his elevation has more to do with the BJP’s efforts to build bridges with the Christian community, whose support is critical for the party to move forward. It is also significant that this has entirely been a decision of the central leadership. Significantly, Minority Affairs is one of the subjects allotted to him as a minister of state. 

Though ended up in the third slot in 18 of the 20 seats, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Kerala appreciably increased its vote share to touch an all-time-high 19.21 per cent. This marked a 3.57 per cent increase from 2019, turning the electoral battle in the left-ruled state into a three-horse race. 

As the initial euphoria recedes, the overriding question is whether this spurt in vote share would go down as a passing phenomenon or mark the beginning of an enduring trend strong enough to upset the dominance of two coalitions led by the CPI(M) and the Congress respectively. 

What impedes the BJP’s electoral progress in Kerala is the state’s demographic composition, more than the political challenges. Muslim and Christian minorities account for about 47 per cent of the state’s population. This remains a formidable challenge for the saffron party, even if it pulls off the miracle of steeply raising the index of Hindu unity. 

The minority communities are strong enough to decide the outcome in most constituencies across the state. It will be futile for the party to hope for even a fraction of the Muslim support, at least shortly. So, the only hope in the prevailing scenario is to steadily increase its support among the Christians. The party’s efforts to befriend the Christian establishments hit roadblocks in the wake of the prolonged communal strife in Manipur. 

The community has a strong feeling that churches and allied institutions have been the prime target of clashes in Manipur, with the government both at the Centre and the state failing to halt the violence. Also, unlike the perception outside, Christians are not a monolithic group in Kerala. 

Though Catholics are the most dominant, Kerala has a number of church denominations, having varied interests that often clash with each other. Appeasing all the disparate groups with a broader approach is hard. A silver lining, however, is that Suresh Gopi is believed to have received the endorsement of a section of Christian voters in Thrissur, as reflected in his impressive margin. 

The induction of Kurian could help resume the disrupted dialogue with the church establishments. The church heads, especially of the Catholic denomination to which Kurian himself belongs, have responded positively to his becoming a minister at the Centre. But much will depend on how the government is going to be sensitive to the larger concerns of the community, including measures to heal the wounds in Manipur.

N Muraleedharan
N Muraleedharan
Senior Journalist from Kerala. Worked with leading news agency Press Trust of India. He is regular columnist and writes on politics of Kerala and National Politics.



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