Goa's Christian netas in big demand in northeast (Election Special)
Goa's Christian politicians appear to be hot currency in the Christianity-dominated regions of northeastern India, which send 25 parliamentarians to the Lok Sabha.
Christians from the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which hardly has a presence in the eight states, appear to have taken point position in their respective party's election campaign in the region, regarded as one of the most neglected in the country.
Congress Working Committee (CWC) member and former Goa chief minister Luizinho Faleiro is the Congress's pointsman for its northeast mission.
So consumed is Faleiro with his brief that he has hardly any time for Goa, or so he claims. "I am just back after touring the region with Rahulji (Gandhi). And soon there is another campaign scheduled with the Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) in the northeast, where I will be accompanying her too," Faleiro told IANS over the phone.
As a Congress general secretary, Faleiro is in-charge of all the northeastern states, acting as a mentor as well as the party's interlocutor in New Delhi for the socio-politically complex region.
According to a Goa Congress official, who has been deputed to Nagaland as an overseer, it is easier for Christians to engage with their leadership in that part of the country.
"It is practical for the party. There is religious tension in states like Nagaland or Mizoram for that matter, where Christians are either a majority or happen to have a significant population. So, being a Christian, it is easy to engage and deal with fellow Christian politicians," the Congress leader told IANS, requesting anonymity.
According to the 2001 census - data on the religion-wise population in the 2011 census has not yet been released - Christianity is a major religion in three northeastern states: Nagaland, Mizoram, and Meghalaya.
In Manipur, Christians account for 34 per cent of the population.
And for the BJP, which is scrounging for every seat in its mission to install Narendra Modi on the prime ministerial throne, it is the party's minority legislators from Goa who have been asked to deliver these Christian votes.
Goa Deputy Chief Minister Francis D'Souza was recently the BJP's star campaigner in Manipur, which has two Lok Sabha seats - Outer Manipur and Inner Manipur - for which the saffron party is fielding two academics for the April 9 and April 17 polls.
"So, the Manipur objective (of the party) should be our focus and it should be our end result...The BJP is the only alternative. You cannot have a Third Front as they're in chaos. So we've to be united in bringing the change on every developmental front," D'Souza said at a rally there.
D'Souza was the BJP's first Christian MLA in Goa, where over 26 percent population is Christian.
In the 2012 assembly polls, the BJP gave nearly a third of its tickets to Christians and supported other independent Christian candidates to reap unprecedented dividends: a simple majority in the 40-member state assembly.
The success story of the BJP's successful assimilation of Christians in the party and the resulting benefits is the story which the party wants Christians in the northeast to hear.
Former Goa BJP president and Health Minister Laxmikant Parsenkar told IANS that the party's Christian MLAs were in demand for campaigning in the northeastern states.
"There is a lot of demand for our Christian MLAs. Michael Lobo is going to campaign there. Our deputy chief minister may go again to campaign for the BJP in one of the northeastern states," Parsenkar said.
From the looks of it, if either of the parties, manage to woo the northeast, the credit for making it happen may just have to go to their little brother on the Western coast who helped break the ice.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 23-03-2014)