India’s Ruling Party Promises Free Jerusalem Trip to Christians

India’s Ruling Party Promises Free Jerusalem Trip to Christians
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AP Photo/ Lefteris PitarakisAsia & Pacific13:02 15.02.2018(updated 13:03 15.02.2018) Get short URL
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Weeks after scrapping the subsidy given to Muslims for undertaking the Haj pilgrimage, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janta Party has promised Christians in the northeastern state of Nagaland that their trip to Jerusalem would be sponsored if the party is voted to power in the state.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — India’s ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) has raised many eyebrows for making an election promise that seemingly goes against its own wisdom. BJP leaders contesting the upcoming state assembly elections in Nagaland have promised Christian voters that if the party comes to power, Christians would get a free trip to Jerusalem. The irony is that, only a few weeks ago, the BJP government at the center had scrapped a subsidy given to Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, arguing that the fund would be better spent boosting the education of girls.

Nagaland has a population of around two million, 88 percent of whom are Christians. The state goes to the polls on February 27. 

“We plan to send groups of Christian senior citizens to Jerusalem if our party comes to power,” Nagaland BJP spokesperson James Vizo told The Hindu.

​Vinod Bansal, spokesman of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), or the World Hindu Council, which has close ties with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) which is considered BJP’s ideological parent organization, criticized the party for appeasing Christians.

“Sending somebody or a senior citizen to Jerusalem is not an offense. But, if the trip is being sponsored by state exchequer then it’s questionable and it must be avoided,” Bansal told Sputnik.

The Indian National Congress — the main opposition party, has also made a similar proposition.

“By an Act of the State government, a board will be established to facilitate minorities visiting the Holy Land at a subsidized cost,” the Congress manifesto reads.

Earlier, the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) had asked voters not to vote for the BJP. The Council alleged the “worst persecution of minority communities from 2015 to 2017.”

​”We cannot deny that the Hindutva movement in the country has become strong and invasive in the past few years with the BJP, the political wing of the RSS, in power,” the NBCC said in a statement.

BJP’s critics have termed this as hypocrisy and opportunism.

“BJP promises to send Christians on a free trip. I was right, BJP continues with the subsidy if it suits its electoral needs. This is (what BJP means by) ‘India first’,” Asaduddin Owaisi, leader of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) tweeted.

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