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Amit Shah woo Christians during Kerala Visit

Shah showed keen interest in knowing how the Kerala BJP unit was progressing in making inroads into the Christian vote base.

NEW DELHI: With the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in mind, BJP chief Amit Shah has reached out to the Christian community in Kerala for support during his visit to the state last week, However, he has new worries from NDA partners in the state who are pressing for several posts.

During his three-day stay in Kerala, Shah expressed dissatisfaction with the BJP unit for not having started the work of expanding the organisation with the requisite enthusiasm.

Shah showed keen interest in knowing how the Kerala BJP unit was progressing in making inroads into the Christian vote base, but made virtually no inquiries about Muslim voters. “Shah asked one of the senior local leaders how many churches fell in his area and whether he has met priests and officials of these churches,” a party leader said.

In all, Shah met two cardinals and 4 bishops during his visit to Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram, including the current president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, Cardinal Baselios Cleemus and Cardinal George Alencherry of the Syro-Malabar Catholics. Two of the four cardinals from India hail from Kerala.

The BJP chief also met representatives of various churches from different Christian denominations. The party is happy with the response from Christian clergy.

The BJP president has directed the state unit to also woo OBC and Dalit voters in the state. He felt the Kerala BJP leaders have not been active enough and they should put in more work. He met the heads of various Mutts and representatives of Kerala Pulaya Maha Sabha, a Dalit organisation that has been inclined towards Communists. Its leadership is now willing to extend support to BJP but whether the community would switch sides is not known.

“He said the leaders should take up issues concerning the people. There is widespread dissatisfaction against the LDF government in the state and BJP should capitalise on this.

BJP leaders from the mandal and district level to the top should tour the state more often. He was unhappy with the performance of booth level workers too,” a party officebearer said. Shah had set a target of appointing 15,000 booth level workers but only around 3,000 were appointed.
“Shah said on several occasions in meetings in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram that party leaders in Kerala have not begun the work in right earnest and not enough has been done. The target set for appointing booth-level workers is a long way off,” a senior state unit leader told ET.

BJP’s allies have also been making demands for appointments to various posts.

While BDJS and JRS want a role in the NDA government, others like Praja Socialist Party and National Democratic Party want posts in bodies like national rubber and coconut boards, party insiders said.

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