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Nagaland Assembly elections: Baptist churches body launches campaign against BJP

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    Kohima, Feb 12: In the Christian-dominated state, Nagaland, where the Assembly elections are scheduled on February 27, the all-powerful Nagaland Baptist Churches Council (NBCC) has launched a scathing campaign against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

    In an open letter, the NBCC has appealed to all other political parties not to support the saffron party and its "brand of Hindutva politics" as India had experienced the worst persecution of minority communities in 2015-2017 under the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-backed BJP government at the Centre.

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    "We cannot deny that the Hindutva movement in the country has become strong and invasive in an unprecedented manner over the last few years with the BJP, the political wing of the RSS, in power," NBCC general secretary Rev Zelhou Keyho said in a letter of appeal addressed to all political parties.

    "Our people are fond of propaganda and because of this we often miss the reality unnoticed. But India has experienced worst persecution ever in 2015-2017. You will be fully aware that persecutions have been tripled in recent years. Pastors, evangelists and missionaries are dragged openly in the streets, harassed and insulted and many made to suffer.

    "Their homes destroyed and children discriminated in schools. Worship places were burnt down and believers are often disturbed and harassed. The Bible is openly burnt and confiscated," the letter added.

    For the upcoming Nagaland elections, the BJP has formed an alliance with the Nationalist Democratic People's Party (NDPP), a local party. The BJP has ended its 15-year-old alliance with the Naga People's Front (NPF) in Nagaland to join hands with the NDPP.

    Asked about the BJP-NDPP alliance, Rev Keyho told The Indian Express, "At this moment, I will not be able to comment on the NDPP but getting a regional party has emboldened the BJP." He added that "while politicians will say the BJP is only a political party and we are not part of the RSS, it is just political talk."

    Regarding the NBCC's open stand against the BJP, Keyho stated that, "This time it has really become a threat (the RSS-backed BJP). That is why we felt we had to make a strong statement not only on behalf of the church here but also on behalf of Christians in the country in general."

    This is not the first time that the churches body is playing a political role in the northeastern state. Often heads of churches have a major say in the political decisions in the state where majority of the people are Baptists.

    The BJP is facing several challenges in Meghalaya--where the Assembly elections are also due on February 27--and Nagaland, both Christian-dominated states. In both the poll-bound states, the BJP is seen as a party which is anti-minority (and thus anti-Christians).

    The saffron party's alleged support for pan-India "beef ban" and silence over attacks on minorities (especially against Christians in states like Madhya Pradesh) have put the ruling BJP on the backfoot in these two states.

    However, what is interesting is that the BJP is also witnessing its political rise in both these states ahead of the elections. The elections results of both the states along with Tripura will be declared on March 3. Tripura is voting for Assembly elections on February 18.

    Nagaland Assembly
    Party 2013 Current Standing  
    NPF 38 45 Election Date : Feb 27 2018
    Counting : Mar 03 2018
    IND 08 08
    CONG 08 00
    NCP 04 01
    BJP 01 04
    JDU 01 01
    OTHERS 00 00
    Total 60 59 (1 Vacant)

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