BJP goes soft in Anti-Christian stand before polls in Mizoram

It remains to be seen if the BJP manages to make the lotus, its election symbol, bloom in Mizoram...
( [email protected] ) Nov 19, 2003 10:52 AM EST

Aizawl, Mizoram, India., Nov. 19 - India 's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is making desperate attempts to make political forays in predominantly Christian Mizoram.

Unlike in other states, BJP leaders and candidates here do not speak about issues such as Hindutva, or strident Hindu nationalism, cow slaughter and a ban on religious conversions during campaigning for the November 20 elections.

Carefully drafted speeches, laced with pro-Christian overtones, have formed part of the speeches by BJP leaders including party president M Venkaiah Naidu.

"We shall be part of the next government in Mizoram and work hand in hand with the new coalition partner in taking the state forward in all aspects," Naidu asserted during a visit to the state.

The BJP does not have any pre-poll alliance but it has the covert support of the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF).

The BJP is contesting eight seats in Mizoram although it has never won a seat in the past. "The BJP is not a threat to Christianity," declared BJP leader CP Thakur at an election meeting.

In a state where more than 95 percent of the 892,000 people are Christians, the BJP's cautious approach to woo the Christian voters is not surprising.

But the main opposition Congress party is determined to keep the BJP out of the political race in the state.

"Our main fight will be with MNF but our biggest enemy is BJP," declared former chief minister and Congress leader Lal Thanhawla.

The MNF has avoided any direct confrontation with the BJP in the campaign.

"The Congress and not the BJP is our biggest rival," said Mizoram Chief Minister and MNF leader Zoramthanga.

The influential church in Mizoram has issued a set of guidelines asking voters against electing candidates and supporting parties having any religious bias.

"We have categorically asked voters not to vote for political parties that preach communalism and seek votes on the basis of religion," said Presbyterian Synod Moderator Reverend Managchhuna Sailo.

It remains to be seen if the BJP manages to make the lotus, its election symbol, bloom in the dizzy heights of Mizoram.

"One can only wait and watch how the voters react to BJP's pro-Christian attitude," said M Lalmuwia, a community elder.