Speaking in the Christian heartland of Kerala, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani strongly refuted allegations that his party is “anti-minorities”, and appealed to Christians to join and support it.
“Those who call the BJP ‘communal’, ‘anti-minorities’ and ‘anti-Christian’ are spreading falsehood for their own ulterior motives. Let me make it very clear that we respect Christianity, we revere Jesus Christ for his message of universal peace, love and brotherhood and we deeply value the contribution of our Christian brethren both to India’s freedom struggle and to India’s nation-building in the post-Independence era,” Advani said. He was speaking as chief guest at a function in Kottayam to celebrate the 91st birthday of Rt Rev Dr Philipose Mar Chrysostom, patriarch of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar.
Advani’s participation in the church function had become a controversy after a campaign linked the Sangh Parivar to violence against Christians in several parts of the country and called for suspending the invitation extended to him. The bishops of the Mar Thoma Church – which was once singled out for praise by RSS chief KS Sudarshan for being an “indigenous” one – stood by its decision to invite Advani.
The BJP leader, who is trying to expand his acceptability in various regions and sections across the country in the run-up to the 2009 general elections, used the occasion well. “I am indeed blessed that I have come to pay tributes to His Holiness who embodies faith, love, happiness, experience, compassion, wisdom and, above all, boundless enthusiasm,” he said felicitating Dr Philipose Mar Chrysostom, and went on to make the political point. “In 1947, we gained victory in India ’s first Freedom Movement. In 1977, we gained victory in India ’s second Freedom Movement. I compliment Mar Thoma Church for its contribution to both victories,” he said.
Recalling that he studied at St Patrick’s School in Karachi before India’s Partition and that all his teachers in school, including Father Modestine, the principal, were Christian, the BJP leader said: “I cannot remember them without a sense of gratitude.” Advani said Jan Sangh founder Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee had appointed barrister VK John as the party chief in the Madras province. “The same propaganda was also heard at the time. Barrister John was asked: ‘How can you, a Christian, accept to be an office-bearer of a communal party?’ His answer was forthright: ‘I know Dr SP Mookerjee very well. He cannot be the president of a communal party.’”
At a meeting of leaders of SC and ST organizations in Kochi Advani accused the Congress-led UPA government of attempting to deviate from the Constitution by proposing reservation on the basis of religion to bring Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims under the ambit of SC/ST quotas.