New Delhi, Feb 14: Just about a month after canceling government subsidised Haj pilgrimages, the BJP is offering Christians free trips to Jerusalem if elected to power in Nagaland, reported northeastern news outlets.
It’s unclear if the BJP is offering this to all of India’s Christians, or only to Christians in the northeast, or only to Christians in Nagaland.
The BJP’s offer comes in the run-up to elections in three northeastern states – Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura – later this month. In Meghalaya, almost 75 percent of the population is Christian. In Nagaland, 88 percent of the population is Christian.
“The BJP has made an election promise to send Christians to Jerusalem on a free trip, if elected to power in Nagaland,” tweeted news outlet WeTheNagas. UNI news agency reported that the free Jerusalem trip has only been offered to Christians in Nagaland.
The BJP’s offer, some said, smacked of hypocrisy and opportunism, especially considering the cancellation of Haj subsidies.
“BJP promise to send Christians on a free trip. I was right, BJP continues with subsidy if it suits its electoral needs. This is (what BJP means by) ‘India first’ “, tweeted AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi .
When announcing the end of haj subsidies last month, Union minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the BJP-led Centre believes in empowering the minority community with dignity and not appeasement.
“We believe in empowerment without appeasement…Development with dignity is what we believe in. The haj subsidy will be used for educating girls,” said Naqvi.
After this decision was announced, Left party CPM said that they were in principle opposed to subsidies for all religious pilgrimages, but were not in favour of the government abruptly stopping the haj subsidy, considering the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that it should be phased out over a 10-year period.
AIMIM MP Owaisi said he had always been in favour of ending the haj subsidy but sought parity in norms for pilgrims of all religions. The Hyderabad MP lashed out at the government for its discriminatory decision, ending Haj subsidy but allowing subsidies to continue for Hindu pilgrimages like the Mansarovar Yatra.
The Israeli press was a tad amused by the BJP’s offer to send Christians on a free trip to Jerusalem. It called the BJP’s announcement a campaign promise and alluded such promises were often overblown.
“Campaign promises around the world are legendary, from ‘a roast in every pot,’ to ‘I’ll cut your taxes,’ to ‘vote for me, and I’ll set you free’ “, wrote The Jerusalem Post.
It also said many countries have over time sponsored or subsidised trips religious trips for their citizens.
“This would not be the first time that countries have bankrolled pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Nigeria, which for many years financed a trip to Mecca for Muslims, did the same for Christians to Jerusalem, leading to some 42,000 Nigerians visiting the country in 2011,” said the Post.