'Hike price of rubber to Rs 300 a kg, bag our votes': Kerala Bishop's message to ruling party at Centre creates ripples

08:32 PM Mar 19, 2023 | PTI |

Kannur: A senior Bishop of the influential Syro-Malabar Catholic Church has created ripples in the political waters of Kerala by saying that if the Centre promised to increase the price of rubber procurement to Rs 300 per kilogram, BJP’s dearth of an MP from the southern state would be addressed.


Thalassery Archbishop Mar Joseph Pamplany made the announcement here at a farmers’ rally. Speaking at the rally, he said, ”No protest in a democracy has value if it does not translate into votes during elections. ”We will tell the Central government that whichever your party may be, we will vote for you if you can increase the price of rubber to Rs 300. The migrant population will address the issue of your lack of an MP from here.”

The Archbishop’s statement comes a couple of weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, buoyed by his party’s poll performance in three minority dominated northeastern states, said that the BJP alliance would form a government in Kerala considering the increasing support of minorities for the saffron party.

Seizing the lifeline extended by Pamplany, the BJP in State welcomed the statement and said it was ready to discuss the matter at the Central level. The Congress and the ruling CPI(M) in Kerala responded cautiously to the Archbishop’s remarks that apparently favour the saffron party.

BJP Kerala state president K Surendran claimed that the State government had been neglecting the farmers of Kerala for ages and that the CPI(M) was now scared that the Christian community would join hands with the BJP.


Surendran also said that the issues raised by the Archbishop were being taken seriously by the BJP and that it was ready to discuss at the Central level what could be done to resolve the matter.

The ruling CPI(M) and the Congress, pointing to the alleged attacks by Sangh Parivar and RSS on several Christian places of worship across India, against which a protest was held recently in the national capital, said the BJP could not be supported just for an increase in rubber prices.

”The BJP is trying to create communal strife and turn the country into a Hindu Rashtra. So price of rubber is not the only problem,” CPI(M) state secretary M V Govindan told reporters.

Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the State Assembly and Congress leader V D Satheesan said the Archbishop’s statement was just an ”emotional” reaction based on the plight of the farmers, and nothing more than that. ”During the tenure of the Oommen Chandy government, the rubber development fund of Rs 500 crore was utilised completely. Presently, it is only there in name and is not being used,” he said, blaming the ruling CPI (M).

”So rubber farmers have no guarantee. However, for that reason we cannot support the party ruling at the Centre, as over 500 Christian places of worship across the country have been attacked in the past 3-4 years,” Satheesan said.

As Pamplany’s statement went viral, along with the speculation that he was supporting the BJP with this statement, the Archbishop clarified that he was not referring particularly to the saffron party but to whichever party promised to raise the procurement price of rubber to Rs 300.

”I did not say that I will help the BJP. It can be the Congress or even the Marxist party. Presently, the BJP is in power at the Centre and they are in a position to help us. ”So if the rubber price is increased to Rs 300, the farmers of the high-range areas will vote for them. The farmers are in dire financial straits. That is why farmers said they will support the party which helps them out,” he said.

The Archbishop said if it’s the BJP that helped them, the farmers would vote for them.

”If the ruling Left front in Kerala can do it, then they will get the farmers’ support. Everyone knows the BJP has no MP from Kerala. Even the Left front has no MP from this area,” Pamplany said. The Thalassery Archbishop said his statement was not in support or against any political party, and that he was just airing the concerns of the rubber farmers.

Speaking to reporters, he also clarified that what he said was not the stand of the Catholic Church either, and ”there is no need to misinterpret it as an alliance between the Church and the BJP”.

Meanwhile, Kerala Congress (M) chief and MP Jose K Mani, in apparent support of the Archbishop, said that according to him what Pamplany meant to say was that Central policies that are affecting farmers need to be corrected. He said that Central policies had been responsible for the low rubber prices and other problems faced by farmers.

”The Kerala Congress(M) and the Church only want to help farmers, and the Church has no political agenda,” Mani said.


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