After the announcement of the formation of the National Progressive Party (NPP) under the leadership of Johny Nellore, a former Kerala Congress MLA and VV Augustine, a former member of the National Minorities Commission, a few days before the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speculation is rife as to whether the party would ally with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is seeking to increase its vote share amongst Christian voters.
While the party has said that it would like to maintain equidistance from all major political groupings, i.e., the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the timing of its formation and the issues raised by it like the increase in rubber prices have indicated that it might be open to allying with the BJP.
The BJP has responded positively to a statement by Joseph Pamplany, an Archbishop of the numerically strong Catholic Syro-Malabar Church, in which he said that Christians would vote for the party in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections if it increased the rubber prices to Rs 300 per kilogram.
During Easter, the party undertook a Sneha Yatra to homes of Christians across the state and the Prime Minister visited the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Delhi.
It has also succeeded in bringing in more leaders from the Christian community to the party after the induction of Anil Antony, the son of former defence minister AK Antony. Victor T Thomas, a Kerala Congress (Joseph) leader and the former UDF district chairman of Pathanamthitta joined the party on 23 April.
A few days before that 80 Christian families joined the party at a programme in the Kottayam district.
According to BJP leaders, many in the Christian community are unhappy with the increasing cases of love jihad, the LDF government's failure to raise rubber prices and the inability of the Congress to contain the growing dominance of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) within the UDF.
Further, they say that the Modi government's development work in the Northeast in Christian-dominated states like Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram has made a good impression on the community.
Among the other gestures said to have made an impact are the induction of former Union minister Alphons Kannanthanam into the state BJP's core committee.
According to political commentators, while the BJP's efforts at wooing Christian voters would likely bear fruit in certain areas, sections of the community are unhappy with the party over its stand on the Vizhinjam issue.
Regarding the NPP, they add that it is likely to attract Christian leaders from the Congress and the various factions of the Kerala Congress, who are unhappy with their respective parties.
Further, they say that allying with a majorly Christian party like the NPP could be better for the BJP than inducting a multitude of Church leaders into the party.
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