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Day 2: Advani begins by wooing Christians
George Iype in Kottayam |
March 11, 2004 11:26 IST
Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani began travelling across Kerala on the second day of his Bharat Uday Yatra on Thursday by flaunting the Bharatiya Janata Party's prized catch in the state -- four Christian priests.
Complete coverage of Advani's yatra
BJP's Kerala leaders re-scheduled Advani's original route to ensure that he travels through the state's Christian hinterland.
Thus, since yesterday evening, Advani has been traversing thickly Christian-dominated areas like Thiruvalla, Changanassery, Kottayam and Muvattupuzha.
In Muvattupuzha, Advani addressed a public rally in support of Minister of State for Law and Justice P C Thomas, who now heads the Indian Federal Democratic Party, a partner in the National Democratic Alliance government.
Two years back, Thomas belonged to the Christian-dominated Kerala Congress Mani group. But he broke away to form a party, which Thomas claims is exclusively for the farmers.
Thomas has since been an ardent supporter of the Vajpayee government. The BJP leadership included his party and him in the ruling coalition last year.
"Only BJP can save the nation and only a BJP government can bring development to the country," says Thomas, who is now contesting from the Muvattupuzha Lok Sabha constituency once again this time.
But the chances for Thomas to win this time will be a Herculean task as he is pitted against Jose K Mani, the son of K M Mani, who heads the Kerala Congress group.
Thomas who specially invited Advani to address public gatherings through his constituency, says the top BJP leader's visit is indeed making an impact.
"It is a rare honour for the people of Kerala that a leader of the stature of Advani is on the move telling them the great strides that the Vajpayee government has made," Thomas told rediff.com
But Advani, who continues address a number of meetings across Kerala, always tells about the BJP's prized catch of Christian priests, who have joined the party recently.
"Look at the situation in Kerala. Even Christian priests are joining the BJP. This shows that BJP is not an anti-minority party," Advani told a gathering in Kottayam on Thursday morning.
The priests -- Abraham Thomas, Thomas David, J J Kochuparambil and K Christy John -- enrolled as BJP members in February claiming that they convinced of the party's ideologies and that only a BJP-led government can sustain the progress and development of India.
Reverend Abraham Thomas, who specially greeted Advani when he flagged off the yatra in Kanyakumari on Wednesday, said, "Advani is a great leader and the BJP is a grand party."
"I am fascinated as to how well the Vajpayee government has ruled this country. My mission is to tell the people to vote for a performer," Father Thomas told rediff.com
The minority Christian leaders joining the BJP is seen as a good omen for the party that has not yet so far won any elections in Kerala.
"Christians and Muslims in Kerala are joining the BJP in Kerala in large numbers. Coming are the days for the BJP in the state, and Advaniji's road journey is to convince the people of our party's credentials," BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai told rediff.com
But not many are convinced.
"I don't think Advani's yatra would change our mindset towards the BJP. The BJP for us continues to be an anti-minority party," says Kurian Jacob, a textile shop owner in Kottayam.
Jacob said Advani may have purposely toured the Christian areas of Kerala to remove the ill-will of the party among the minorities. "I don't think people here in Kerala are overly thrilled about the yatra," he adds.