Delhi LG's meeting with Church heads in Kerala sparks controversy

Opposition Leader VD Satheesan has petitioned the Election Commission after Delhi Lieutenant Governor, Vinai Kumar Saxena visited major archbishops of the Syro-Malabar churches in Ernakulam on April 24.
Vinai Kumar Saxena at a meeting with Believers church leaders.
Vinai Kumar Saxena at a meeting with Believers church leaders. Facebook
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The visit of Delhi Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena to Kerala has sparked controversy. Saxena, who arrived on Wednesday, April 24, to attend an event at Believers Church Medical College in Thiruvalla, also called on major archbishops of the Syro-Malabar churches in Ernakulam on April 24.

VD Satheesan, Leader of Opposition in Kerala, on Thursday, April 25, lodged a complaint with the Election Commission and requested an inquiry into the Delhi Lieutenant Governor’s visit to the church heads prior to the Lok Sabha election in the state.

Saxena on Wednesday visited some church leaders in Ernakulam, Kottayam, and Pathanamthitta. He met former Syro-Malabar Catholic Church head George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church Raphael Thattil, and authorities of Believers Church. He also visited Severios Kuriakose of Malankara Syrian Knanaya Church in Chingavanam, Kottayam.

According to reports, Satheesan’s complaint alleged that the Lieutenant Governor, who holds a constitutional position, interfered in politics by coming to Kerala to help the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

Believers Church had extended support to Anil Antony, son of Congress veteran AK Antony, and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate in the Pathanamthitta constituency.

Anto Antony, the United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate in the Pathanamthitta Lok Sabha constituency, alleged that the governor threatened the church head for Anil Antony. “Some governors have been calling and threatening church heads. They demand that the church heads ensure Anil gets the votes under their control. In other words, they are trying to convey that if this doesn’t happen, the consequences would be huge,” Anto Antony told the media.

Thomas Isaac, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) candidate in the Pathanamthitta,  alleged that Saxena was trying to intimidate the churches and ensure their support. “I don’t know why they sent Saxena here. How thoughtless they are if they think they can intimidate people from Kerala to ensure they will stand with them,” Isaac told the media.

There are criticisms within the church over such a meeting on the verge of elections.

“He also tried to meet a few Latin Catholic bishops, but they refused. Many priests in the church were against Bishop Thattil meeting the governor, but he was not bothered about that. However, the Catholic (Syro-Malabar) bishops already have an affinity for power. Even if some terrorist organizations started ruling the country, the Catholics (Syro-Malabar) would start supporting them,” alleged Felix Pullokkaran, a leader of Joint Christian Council, a reformation movement within the church.

A veteran Catholic priest from Ernakulam said that this was just another meeting of bishops with a BJP leader. “The bishops have already met many BJP leaders, including Narendra Modi. This is yet another political meeting on the verge of elections. But personally, I don't think this will create a last-minute impact because the BJP has already been trying its best to woo Christians in Kerala; some have fallen for that, while others haven't,” he said.

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