Farmer votes to BJP: Kerala bishop sparks controversy
by Nirmala Carvalho

In the face of plummeting rubber prices, Monsignor Joseph Pamplany, archbishop of Tellicherry, calls on the central government to intervene, promising support for Hindu nationalists in return. Fr Thelakat, former spokesman of the Syro-Malabar Synod: 'A barter for money that does not consider the good of the country'.

Kannur (AsiaNews) - In the Christian community of Kerala, statements by a bishop who pointed to the possibility of support for the BJP in exchange for the central government's actions of support for local farmers have sparked debate.

The Archbishop of Tellicherry, Monsignor Joseph Pamplany, spoke a few days ago at a meeting with farmers organised by the All Kerala Catholic Congress in Kannur. Faced with the falling prices of agricultural products, including rubber in particular, he said: 'Prices have plummeted, who is responsible? Nobody... In democracy a protest only takes on value when it turns into a vote. We can say to the central government: if you buy rubber from farmers at Rs 300 per kg, whatever your party, we are ready to vote for you. That way the farmers would solve the BJP's problem of not having an MP in Kerala'.

The archbishop added that the farmers will not withdraw from their agitation until their demands are met: 'We are not against any government, but the authorities should ensure a situation where farmers can survive here.

This stance is causing dismay among many Indian Catholics. 'I am horrified by these statements by the archbishop,' Fr Paul Thelakat, former spokesman of the Syro-Malabar Synod, told AsiaNews.

"To consider all parties as equal, to put it bluntly, is naive. The Nazi party in Germany came to power through votes. Politics is a country-wide ethic. It does not question whether a political party accepts all citizens as equal or not, whether all religions are free in the country to practise and propagate their religion. It does not care about the rights of other citizens in the country, it does not even care about Catholics in the country. It is a disgrace."

For Fr Thelekat, Archbishop Pamplany "betrays the Church's teaching on politics, caring only about a group of peasants and believers. He barters votes for money. Such unprincipled and cheap leadership can endanger the Church and the community. He speaks like a communal leader and not like a church leader."