Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Is the VPP the Christian version of BJP?

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By Albert Thyrniang

In an NPP meeting in Mawlai, a former MLA who joined the party prior to last year’s Assembly elections alleged that the VPP leaders often quote from the Bible (Word of God) during political meetings. This, according to him, violates the constitutional provisions that prohibit using of religion for political ends. Strangely during the very platform the gentleman quotes a verse from the letter to the Corinthians reminding the VPP of Paul’s exhortation, “Don’t misuse the Word of God for personal benefits as this is against God’s will.”
It is true that the VPP’s political speeches in different parts of Khasi-Jaintia Hills are loaded with biblical references. The prime ‘accused’ is the chief, Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit who has found a new lease of life in the VPP. He has been a crowd puller. People flock to listen to him explaining the origin and the principles of his party. During these ‘party expansionist’ drives bringing in religion to politics is obvious. The Bible is quoted quite liberally. The boss and the co-founders make no bones of their conviction that the VPP came into being because of God’s will. That the party is formed and shaped according to God’s design. Responding to the NPP’s charge the VPP’s president and star campaigner said that he would rather lose rather than denying God’s role in the political arena.
This is involving religion and God in politics. This is mixing of religion and politics. This is clearly against the Constitution. One is surprised that the Election Commission of India has not taken note of it. Last year when Dasakhiatbha Lamare distributed money in Nongkrem before the elections the complaint was that action should be taken against him because the intention was to ‘buy’ votes though the model code of conduct was not yet in place. Similarly, the VPP should not be permitted to preach God and the Bible during election campaigns though the dates for the Lok Sabha polls have not been announced. What the VPP leaders do is illegal even out of election seasons. There is no timeframe for model code of conduct for Illegal actions.
The VPP is anti-BJP because, like many others, it alleges the saffron party is misusing religion for electoral purposes. It is exploiting religion to win elections. It is a pro-Hindu and pro-Hindutva party. It brings religion into politics. It mixes politics and religion. The ruling party is imposing the majority ideology on everyone else. It has excelled in the art of securing the support of the majority community who are above 80 percent in the country. The VPP is doing or is attempting to do exactly the same. It is bringing the ‘Christian God’ and the Christian Scripture into its politics. In one such instance ‘Bah’ Ardent asked pardon from the non-Christians in the audience for quoting the Bible. This is disrespect of the non-Christians. It is an imposition of the Christian belief on others. The VPP too is ‘appealing’ for votes in the name of religion. Certainly the strategy of the VPP is to gain the support of the Christians who form almost 80 percent of the population in the state. So the VPP is identical to the BJP. If the BJP is a pro-Hindu party, the VPP is a pro-Christian party. In other words the VPP is a Christian version of the BJP.
What about other parties in the state? Are they any different? The NPP worker from Mawlai, besides bizarrely arguing from the Bible to admonish the VPP, also acknowledged that NPP political meetings do begin with a prayer. Thus the NPP is not innocent. The ex-legislator and MDC also forgot the disgusting NPP’s invitation of a prelate and a pastor to shower the chosen ministers and elected representatives prior and post the swearing in ceremony in the chief minister’s residence and Secretariat, respectively, last year. For promoting Christianity the NPP got cheers even from theologians. With that we lost all credibility to criticize the BJP. We had no choice but to silently watch the inauguration of the new Parliament building adorned with Hindu priests and sadhus. The chief minister was there all smiles at the inauguration ceremony of the temple of democracy dominated by Hindu rites because he himself performed the ‘Christianization act’. The NPP’s alliance with the BJP is well known. But even the ‘Voice of the People’ is in the same page with the BJP. It is voiceless against the BJP’s agenda to ‘safronize’ the nation because in Meghalaya the target is to ‘Christianize’ politics.
A few days back the chief minister, the deputy chief minister, the MP, state ministers were seen singing enthusiastically at the Church assembly in Sohra (Cherrapunji) region. These political big wigs were all invited by religious leaders to the convention. Politicians love to publicly display their faith. Men and women in power were there because they make sizeable contributions. There is no public announcement of the amounts but in tea stalls and gossip spots people say, ‘this/that political leader has donated so much for the ‘jingiaseng’ (church gathering). In private conversations the amounts are revealed and comparisons are made. The bigger the position the bigger the amount!
Politicians make contributions and attend gigantic religious services to impress the voters. They get the goodwill of church leaders. Church leaders are pleased and probably vote for the biggest benefactors. They will have good words to speak to the congregation. This is nothing short of a bribe and a quid pro quo. If we are taken up with our leaders participating in Church functions why do we have a problem with Modi and other politicians making a show of temple visits? The intention is the same – to garner votes. Why blame the VPP leaders for their biblical expertise when others exploit devotion for political mileage. The leaders of the VPP, if they are true to themselves, should not be seen in religious meetings for they don’t make any donation.
Huge public funds are also spent for church assemblies. Prior to the Sohra synod, the local MLA was seen inspecting the venue. He talked of how promptly the road was built and how quickly water brought and how the works for the pilgrimage were duly expedited out of the public exchequer. Politicians will facilitate such services. They are willing to move the entire government machinery for they have their gains. But should religious leaders avail such benefits? Is it not a misuse of authority? For a two or three day’s program church leaders make sure that the whole government set up is at their service. The road is laid. Water is brought. Other facilities are in place.
How many villages in Meghalaya have no proper road and drinking water? Have church leaders moved government departments so that villagers are approachable and water is made available? Have they talked to the chief minister and other ministers about the deprivation of poor people? Have they expressed concern at the backwardness of certain sections in the state? Why show enthusiasm only to get things done for church gatherings? Why the eagerness to have good roads and clean water only at venues of annual mega events? Why the lukewarm attitude at the rural inhabitants who have only rough and bumpy roads and have to physically fetch water from long distances? Why open one’s eyes only at the requirements of a make shift venue while blind to the suffering of the citizens for generations? Before the media Church leaders, along with politicians, inspect to see that the road to venue of a religious function is well made, the pipes are well laid, the taps are functioning and the tanks are well built. But have they opened their mouths when roads are in pathetic condition, when tanks are without water, when pipes and taps are broken in villages? By the way the VPP and Mawryngkneng MLA was also seen inspecting a venue of a church assembly in his constituency.
In the beginning one was fascinated by the founding principles of the VPP. When the party was formed in November 2021 with clean politics as its core ideology a sense of hope was in the air. At last someone has publicly declared to fight corruption, bribery and nepotism. One was willing to give the VPP the benefit of a doubt. It is early days for the party. They have pledged not to distribute cash during elections, not to dole out money for medicines, books, admissions, picnics and religious functions. Hope they persevere and succeed and change the way elections are fought and politics is practiced in the state.
However, the element of religious extremism is unacceptable. Trumpeting that they (politicians) are guided by the Bible is unbecoming. Publicly attributing God for political decisions and actions is wrong. Doing so implies one cannot make mistakes. There is no such guarantee. If blunders are made should they also be ascribed to God? We brand the BJP as ‘seng shongshit niam’ (communal). But what about us? Are we not hypocrites?

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