Cong., BJP woo religious, caste bodies

Chandy, Chennithala meet church leaders, Surendran hold talks with Sabarimala tantri

As the pre-election scene hots up in the State, leading political parties are now cosying up to religious and caste organisations in Central Travancore region with an eye on the vote bank.

When the BJPโ€™s Vijay Yatra reached Chengannur in Alappuzha on Thursday, party State president K. Surendran reached out to the family of the Sabarimala tantri, which holds a special place among the Hindu upper castes in Central Kerala.

During the visit, Mr. Surendran held discussions with Kandararu Rajeevaru, the reigning tantri (chief priest) of the hill shrine and congratulated him for taking an upright stance during the Sabarimala protests.

โ€œThe tantri was one of the important personalities whom I wanted to meet during the rally,โ€ Mr. Surendran later told mediapersons. The tantri, on the other hand, chose to be more careful with his words and held that he would welcome help from any political organisations as far as the Sabarimala issue was concerned.

RSS initiative

The meeting, which closely followed an initiative by the Rashtriya Swayasevak Sangh to bridge relationships with the Orthodox and Jacobite factions of the Malankara church, assumes significance as the Sabarimala women entry issue forms the core of the BJPโ€™s poll plank in the region.

It also came amidst intense speculation that Mr. Surendran, who led a series of protests in connection with the issue, would contest from the Konni Assembly constituency that also comprises the Sabarimala zone.

The BJP appears to have made significant advancements across the region by riding on the Sabarimala protests and single-handedly won the Pandalam municipality during the recent local body elections.

Cong. efforts

Meanwhile, the Congress too has launched active efforts to woo back its eroding vote bank in the region. As part of the campaign, senior leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala on Thursday visited Theodosius Mar Thoma, metropolitan of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church.

The meeting, which began around 11.30 a.m, lasted about half an hour. Emerging out of the meeting, Mr. Chandy described it as a friendly call while the Marthoma Metropolitan responded that the churchโ€™s demands were conveyed to the two leaders.

The Thiruvalla-based church commands a significant presence in the Pathanamthitta district and its adjoining regions.

Earlier in January, Mr. Chandy and Chennithala had met the Orthodox church head in Kottayam while the AICC general secretary Tariq Anwar and AICC secretary Evan Dโ€™Souza visited Cardinal Mar Cleemis, archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

Besides the church denominations, the two parties have also attempted reaching out to the Nair Service Society, a prominent community organisation with its headquarters in Changanassery ahead of the elections.

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