The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday raised the spectre of ‘love jihad’ to woo Christian voters ahead of the Assembly polls on April 6.
BJP State president K. Surendran said “deceptive conversion to Islam” using inter-faith love marriage as a cover was a matter of grave concern to Christians.
Kerala Congress (M) leader Jose K. Mani had given voice to the community’s worry. However, Mr. Mani had backtracked from the candid observation under pressure from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)].
Campaigning in Kottayam, Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan said Mr. Mani had tiptoed around the ‘love jihad’ issue as an after-thought. The Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) were disinclined to spotlight ‘love jihad’ owing to the outsize influence of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), he said.
The BJP appeared to calculate that ‘love jihad’ and Sabarimala would gain traction among Christian and Hindu voters as the Assembly campaigning races to a close.
Stand of church forums
It seemed not lost on the BJP that the Synod of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church had passed a resolution expressing concern over the “rising cases of love jihad.” The party also felt buoyed by the Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Council spokesperson Fr. Jacob Palakapally’s statement that mainstream political parties should address the deep worry about ‘love jihad’ instead of dismissing it as a myth.
The BJP had also found a common cause with the Church on the controversial change of status of the iconic Hagia Sofia in Istanbul from a heritage museum to a mosque.
The BJP also seemed to sense a political opportunity in the NSS leadership’s perceived antipathy to the LDF on the emotive issue relating to the entry of women of childbearing age into the Ayyappa temple. The BJP manifesto promised a law against ‘love jihad’ and another to protect the “traditions and customs” of Sabarimala.
‘Not an issue’
Meanwhile, the LDF has attempted to play down Sabarimala and ‘love jihad.’ Communist Party of India State secretary Kanam Rajendran termed ‘love jihad’ as a bogey raised by the Sangh Parivar to promote Islamophobia. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan reiterated that Sabarimala was not a poll issue. The Congress-BJP attempt to rake it up would fail at the hustings.