After facing a backlash from the Christian community for making anti-Christian remarks, BJP went into damage control mode by refusing to accept its MP Gopal Shetty’s resignation. Shiv Sena alleged that BJP had asked Shetty to reconsider his decision to step down with an attempt to woo Christian voters. Sena had stated that BJP is trying to shed its Hindutva ideology and attempting to become a secular outfit. The party nonetheless came in defence of Shetty and said that he had not said anything wrong. Sena added that more than the Christian community, various political outfits have blown this issue out of proportion.
Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said, “When BJP has not accepted Gopal Shetty’s resignation, it only goes to show that they are endorsing his views. He has only made an indirect reference of the party’s stand. BJP is indirectly supporting the leader by failing to take action against him.”
Even though Christians comprise only around 2.3 per cent of India’s population as per the 2011 census but BJP is keen to send a message that it doesn’t make any discrimination among the religions. The party also had coined the phrase ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ in order project itself as an outfit which follows inclusive growth. However, a question which arises here is will voters connect with BJP as it has always been termed as communal party?
Shiv Sena spokesperson Ashish Jaiswal said, “BJP rakes up the Hindutva agenda during the election, but forgets about farmer’s welfare. They bring these issues on the forefront just for the sake of vote bank politics prior to the election. The election is more important to them instead of following Hindutva or secular ideology.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had always tried to project BJP as a party which follows development agenda. On the other hand, there has been a sharp increase in the attacks against the Christians in the country. Around 20 per cent of the attacks occurred against the community in 2016 alone as per a report of the All India Christian Council. It also mentions that physical violence against Christians has increased to 40 per cent and murders have doubled. The Church workers have been assaulted in several states of the country. Ever since the BJP has come to power, the right-wing nationalism has taken precedence.
Shibu Varghese, Pastor Church of God (Full Gospel) In India, “Since I have not heard about the statements made by him, I won’t be able to comment about it. His statements might be true because during the British rule, some people had supported them but the scenario has changed today. Now every Christian is patriotic towards India. As an individual, I love my country and I have respect for her.”
On the other hand, there has been a sharp rise in the lynching incidents across the country since the last four years. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi alleged that India is witnessing 28 lynching a month- almost one per day. He added that these incidents have never happened in the last 70 years. Singhvi stated that BJP has failed to take action against the accused responsible for the lynching incidents. Even though Modi had broken his silence against lynching incidents but it was too little too late.
The Christians have criticised Shetty for his controversial statements made against them. They held a protest outside Shetty’s residence and asked him to withdraw his statements. A case was also registered against Shetty in the local police station. Later, the BJP MP clarified that his statements have been misinterpreted and he never discriminated against anyone.
BJP MP Gopal Shetty stated, “Party asked me to withdraw my resignation and I abide by their decision. BJP follows Hindutva ideology; hence, I don’t agree with the editorial published in Saamna that our party is turning secular. We are Hindu nationalists and do not believe in pseudo-secularism. During the freedom struggle, Congress was a movement and not a political party. Gandhiji had called for the dissolution of Congress after gaining independence. Everyone participated in the freedom movement.”
BJP leaders have always been known for making controversial statements and distorting history. Christians have also made a vital contribution for the sake of nation’s independence. Barrister George Joseph, who was born in a Christian family in Kerala, had actively participated in the Home Rule Movement. Titsuji had participated in the Salt Satyagraha Movement.