By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar, Panaji, April 4 IANS | 9 months ago

The influential Church in Goa has rattled the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party by asking its followers not to vote for the BJP.

The Church's move comes as a shock for the BJP, which was trying desperately to get cosy with Goa's Christians, who account for 27 percent of the state's population. Goa elects two members to the Lok Sabha.

Official communiques released by Goa Archbishop and a social group operated by the Church have also driven a wedge between Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and Deputy Chief Minister Francis D'Souza over what Narendra Modi's prime ministership would mean to India's minorities.

Last month, the Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP), a Church-backed NGO, lashed out at Modi for promoting personality oriented politics.

It also hinted that communal and corporate forces had "infiltrated" India's secular spirit.

In a public pledge issued to voters, it lashed out at the Parrikar-led government for poor governance, saying it too, like previous governments, was not above corruption and being pro-mining industry.

The following day, Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao issued a circular announcing a prayer campaign exhorting Christians to vote for a secular candidate.

While both statements did not take names, they dropped enough hints to suggest who the message was for.

This has riled BJP politicians and their allies, especially those from the Christian community no end.

"Minorities will have an apprehension. It will always be there," the deputy chief minister said last week, openly blaming the Goa Church for triggering a secularism-versus-communalism debate.

Mickky Pacheco, head of the Goa Vikas Party, which supports the BJP-led coalition, and his legislator Caitu Silva came worse off in their spiel against the Church.

Caitu accused priests of sucking up to the Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha battle. Pacheco alleged that the Church had sinned by raking up the communalism debate before elections.

"The Church has sinned. I am very sure about it," Pacheco charged this week even as Fr. Maverick Fernandes, a Church spokesperson, publicly asked Pacheco to "revisit his own religion" and stop exposing his "rusty knowledge" about Christianity.

Parrikar has dodged and ducked questions about Modi and the possible apprehension that the Gujarat chief minister has triggered in the minority community in Goa.

But party spokesperson Pramod Sawant is more candid in his admission.

Sawant said there was a false campaign on, which was aimed at branding the BJP communal ahead of April 12, when Goa will vote.

"False accusations about communalism are being made. But people will see through it," Sawant told IANS, adding the party's six Christian legislators would do the rounds of the electorate to prove that the BJP was in fact a secular entity.

(Posted on 04-04-2014)

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