A priest from the land of martial arts, Thalassery, Bishop Mar Joseph Pamplany, has promised to help the BJP bag a seat in Parliament from Kerala if the Union government raises the price of rubber to Rs 300 per kilo, in a veiled attempt to entice the party that is trying desperately to get a toe-hold in the state.
The bishop came out with this Puzhikkadakan, the ultimate move to disarm the enemy in Kerala’s famed Kalaripayattu, at a farmers’ rally in Kannur. “We will end your (BJP’s) dry run to Parliament in Kerala.... The rubber farmers in the state are in dire straits. The central government can consider fixing the rubber price at Rs 300.... There is nothing in democracy that cannot be turned into votes,” the bishop told the gathering.
The prices of rubber have been on the slide for more than a decade. The outbreak of Covid19 had brought rubber tapping to a halt in most of the plantation areas. Many of them are yet to revive tapping fully.
A kilo of rubber which had fetched Rs 240 in 2011 hardly touches Rs 120 these days. With over 15 lakh households dependent on rubber cultivation, their plight is not addressed by mainstream political parties in the state.
The Kerala Congress, the one party which used to raise their issues, has gone into a limbo ever since the death of its founder K.M. Mani.
Hence the desperation on the part of the Church since a majority of rubber farmers belong to the Christian community.
“Many of them (rubber farmers) are facing threats of confiscation and the only source of income is rubber farming. Whichever party extends support to farmers will be backed in the elections. This decision has no other political motive,” Mar Joseph Pamplany said.
The bishop’s comment comes close on the heels of the BJP’s ally in the state, the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena, saying that if the party intends to come to power in Kerala, it needs the support of minority Christians and Muslims.
It is an open secret in Kerala that the BJP has been trying to win over the Christians in the state by raising the “love jihad” and “narcotics jihad” issues against the Muslims.
Some bishops and even the ruling CPM have fallen prey to this Sangh parivar propaganda, which did not have a lasting effect despite the BJP’s efforts to keep the communal cauldron simmering.
However, the BJP’s performance in the Christian-dominated Northeast states in the recently held elections has revived hopes of the community’s support for the party in Kerala.
Many from the dioceses in Kerala, especially in the hilly areas dominated by settlers, have been dabbling in politics, even taking over the leadership of the farming community in various parts of the state.
Most notably, the Church was the force behind the striking down of the implementation of the Madhav Gadgil Committee recommendations, which diluted the emphasis on environment preservation, forcing almost all political parties to toe its line.
CPM state secretary M.V. Govindan’s comment that rubber price was not the only issue plaguing the farmers in the state can only add oil to the flame.
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