BJP tests waters in Christian majority northeast elections

Camil Parkhe
Saturday, 24 February 2018

After the conclusion of voting in the Marxist-ruled Tripura, the major political parties have now shifted their attention to Meghalaya and Nagaland, two Christian majority states, which will go to the polls on February 27. The BJP, which has been almost on a conquering spree in most of the recent polls, faces a daunting task in these two states where its pro-Hindutva and the anti-Christian image will play a major role.

The poll verdicts of the three states Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura will be declared on March 3. These three states each have 60 assembly seats.

After the conclusion of voting in the Marxist-ruled Tripura, the major political parties have now shifted their attention to Meghalaya and Nagaland, two Christian majority states, which will go to the polls on February 27. The BJP, which has been almost on a conquering spree in most of the recent polls, faces a daunting task in these two states where its pro-Hindutva and the anti-Christian image will play a major role.

The poll verdicts of the three states Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura will be declared on March 3. These three states each have 60 assembly seats.

Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have a significant number of Christian voters. But Meghalaya and Nagaland and also Mizoram are Christian-majority states. According to the Census figures, 75 per cent of Meghalaya’s population is Christian and 88 per cent of Nagaland’s population is Christian. The Rashtriya  Swayamsevak Sangh has been very active in the northeastern states for the past many years. But the BJP has not been able to consolidate its base in the Christian majority states in Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram.  

The Congress has roped in many Christian leaders, especially from south India including former Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy to woo the voters in Nagaland and Meghalaya. Their main job would be to depict the BJP as an anti-Christian party.

The various denominations of the Church have been repeatedly voicing their concern over the rising incidents of violence against the Christian community, especially in some BJP-ruled states in the country. The anti-BJP parties have been harping on this issue to woo the local voters.

On its part, the BJP has been trying hard to shed off its pro-Hindutva or anti-Christian image at least in these two northeastern states. The BJP had recently inducted K Alphons, a Christian, as Union tourism minister with eyes on the polls in Meghalaya and Nagaland. The party has appointed Alphons as the key Christian face in Nagaland polls.  Alphons has been a key figure in all important rallies addressed by senior BJP leaders in Nagaland.

The BJP has already offered free trips to Holy land Jerusalem to Christians if the party is voted to power in Nagaland.   

To woo the Christian voters, the BJP has openly announced that it will not seek a ban on sale or consumption of beef in any of the northeastern states. For the tribal dominant northeastern states, beef is a stable meal. In Goa, too, where the BJP has been ruling for many years, the state chief minister Manohar Parrikar has assured the citizens that the state will not face a shortage of beef.  

But the BJP has faced a major challenge from the Nagaland Baptist Church Council which has openly asked the faithful not to vote for the saffron party. The Baptist church, a prominent congregation in the state, has written this in a letter sent to presidents of all major political parties.   After winning power in Assam, the BJP has made inroads into the north eastern sector of the country. The verdict of the electorates in Tripura, Nagaland, and Meghalaya will now indicate the people’s mood in the country and also the BJP’s preparedness for the 2019 general elections.

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