In the stagnant bipolar politics of Kerala the saffron party has always been an untouchable. Its attempt to open an account has failed in every election.
This time, the BJP has received some balm from an unexpected quarter. The clerics of the Jacobite Syrian and the Malankara Orthodox churches have lauded Narendra Modi openly. Sniffing some acceptance, the party has since rushed its emissaries to their head quarters. Though both are smaller denominations, these sects are dominated by professionals and business men.
"We don't have any problem with Narendra Modi. We are getting good feedback from our believers settled in Gujarat," explained Metropolitan Thomas Mar Themotheos of the Kottayam diocese of the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church. The head of the Orthodox seminary Baselios Marthoma Paulose also found him acceptable. "We don't have any problem with him if he ensures communal amity. Gujarat has made rapid progress under him," he said.
Though Christians form only 18 per cent of the total population of Kerala (3.30 crore), they play a decisive role in the state. They have made health and education a thriving business in Kerala and manage a number of educational institutions in major cities across the country. Many support Modi who is quick to cut red tape and promote business.
The party's national executive member KJ Alphons, a former MLA and IAS officer (A former Commissioner of NDMC, who razed many illegal units in the 1990s, he was once known as Delhi's Demolition Man), played a key role in ironing out the wrinkles. "A Christian's daily prayer (Thy kingdom come, O God) has got some connect with Mody's good governance. Proper care of the poor and suffering and good governance are dear to the Church. Our PM candidate is also propagating the same," Alphons said.
Those with close links to Gujarat vouch that Modi is the best bet. "I am a great fan of his development agenda. I liked his inclusive development plank. There has not been a single riot since 2002. In the present scenario, he is the most suitable PM candidate," said George Jacob, a retired corporate official, who spent six years in Ahmedabad.
The Modi magic has enamored the younger generation as well. "His development agenda is good. But he has to ensure that the 2002 communal polarization and subsequent riot are not repeated," said K Abraham, a 22-year-old techie working with an IT giant in Thiruvananthapuram.
However, the Catholics, the most powerful Christian sect, are yet to bat for Modi. When the BJP's prime ministerial candidate visited Thiruvananthapuram last year he was supposed to meet the youngest Cardinal of the Catholic church Mar Baselios Cleemis (54). But sensing trouble, the Cardinal called off the meeting at the last moment.
"To divide society on communal lines and try to get power to dominate others is a crime. It will spell the end of our democracy. Liberty, equality and fraternity are the essential components of a healthy society," said the Syro-Malabar Church spokesman Father Paul Thelakat, who believes the Orthodox and Jacobite churches have not given Modi a clean chit. He agrees, though, that some groups, driven by self-interest, were ready to rally around Modi.
So while it is true that Modi has worked his magic on some, he is yet to cast a spell on a majority of Kerala's Christians. The state unit of the party is now working overtime to line up the maximum number of priests possible when Modi visits the state on February 9 to sound his southern poll bugle.