New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appointed John Barla from West Bengal as Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs.
The Christians and the central government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi have often had an interesting phase in their love-hate relationship.
The appointment of West Bengal MP from Alipurduar 46-year John Barla is one of those.
"We hope he does justice to his responsibilities," said Father Nicholas Barla, secretary of the Indian Bishops' Commission for Tribal Affairs,
In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, John Barla humbled Dasrath Tirkey of Trinamool Congress by over two lakh votes from Alipurduar, a key seat in north Bengal.
PM Modi's Council of Ministers from May 2019 did not have any Christian leader and John Barla's induction now fulfills the gap.
Mukti Prakash Tirkey, editor of a weekly newspaper on tribal affairs published from New Delhi, said, “John has worked hard for the rights of tea garden workers in north Bengal and Assam for over 20 years. He can bring the issues related to them to the national platform.”
Barla’s appointment “is a well-deserved gift to him" from his party and the Prime Minister as he has worked among the tribal people.
On assuming office, Mr. Barla said, under Prime Minister Modi, he and his other colleagues will tirelessly work for the development of the under-developed region of West Bengal.
“People are now scared because of the current government (under Mamata Banerjee) in my state, but we want peace. And peace will come through development," said Brala, who worked in the tea gardens from the age of 14.
"I will work for the people of my country, especially for the tea laborers and minorities of my constituency,”
"Since John himself belongs to an Oran tribe, he is the right person who can understand the sufferings, difficulties, and socioeconomic conditions of the tribal people," Father Nicholas Barla, secretary of the Indian Bishops' Commission for tribals, has been quoted as saying by Catholics-run UCA News.
Barla also told a Bengali TV channel that the Central schemes should be effectively implemented in the Trinamool Congress-ruled state.
Another north Bengal MP and Cooch Behar lawmaker Nisith Pramanik has inducted on July 7 expansion and made Union Minister of State for Home.
In January this year, the Prime Minister had met three senior Catholic leaders – Cardinal Oswald Gracias of the Latin-rite Church, Cardinal George Alencherry, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, and
Cardinal Baselios Cleemis of the Syro-Malankara Church.
The BJP has several Christian leaders in Goa and at present, the saffron party runs a coalition government in Nagaland, where native Naga Christian leader Y. Patton is the deputy chief minister.
BJP is also part of the coalition government in Meghalaya under Conrad Sangma of NPP.
In another Christian-stronghold Mizoram, too, on the eve of 2018 assembly polls, several Christian leaders, including former pastors, joined the BJP.
In 2017, Modi had made a Catholic and a former bureaucrat K.J. Alphons a minister.