Shillong/Kohima, Feb 23: As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping to capture power in poll-bound Nagaland and Meghalaya, it is the issue of "religion" over which the party is struggling hard. Both Nagaland and Meghalaya are Christian-dominated states and the BJP's image of being a "pro-Hindu" party is definitely not doing any good to the saffron party in the northeastern states. Moreover, when last year the Centre tried to bring a pan-India ban on the sale of cattle for slaughter, people of both the states opposed it vehemently.
In the northeast region, majority of the people consume beef and any attempt to impose restriction on food habits of the people is likely to meet with resistance.
While in Meghalaya the ruling Congress is campaigning against the BJP by alleging that the party is "anti-Christian", in Nagaland the powerful church body has asked people to vote for political parties which adhere to Christian and Naga values.
On Thursday, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Nagaland and Meghalaya to campaign for the saffron party, he clarified that "the BJP is not an anti-Christian" party.
To stress on the fact that the BJP has nothing against the Christian people and has worked for the betterment and safety of the community, Modi during his 42-minute speech at Meghalaya's Phulbari in West Garo Hills listed instances when the Centre has come to the rescue of Indian Christians living on foreign shores.
Modi told a crowd of around 25,000 people in Phulbari that the ruling BJP government has rescued Indians belonging to the Christian community from the clutches of terrorists in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.
The PM cited the example of Catholic priest from Kerala, Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was kidnapped by terrorists in Yemen. He also told the crowd that his government rescued 48 Christian nurses from Kerala after terrorists kidnapped them in Afghanistan in July 2014.
"Father Tom, who was spreading the message of Christianity in Yemen, was kidnapped by terrorists (in 2016). The Indian government made tireless efforts to rescue him. We also urged nations having cordial relationship with Yemen to save Father Tom. We freed him and got him back. His heath was deteriorating and we provided for his medical care as well," Modi said.
Modi accused the ruling Congress in Meghalaya of playing communal politics by accusing the BJP of being anti-Christian. The PM told the crowd that under the Congress regime, which is in power for the last 15 years, the state did not see any developmental works.
He also alleged that the Congress was corrupt as the party leaders pocketed all the funds granted by the Centre for developmental works. PM Modi said Nagaland needed a strong and stable government to work for development.
"My vision for the Northeast is transformation by transportation," he said during an election meeting at Tuensang, about 360 kilometres from Kohima, according to the official Twitter account of the BJP Nagaland.
The Assembly elections in both Nagaland and Meghalaya are scheduled on February 27. The Assembly polls in Tripura were held on February 18. The results of all the three Assembly elections will be declared on March 3.