Rechristening Christmas: BJP tweaks 'good governance day' for North East, says change not mandatory

The Bharatiya Janata Party, tweaking its political strategy for the North East, has reversed its decision to observe 25 December as 'Good Governance Day'. The Christian-dominated NorthEast had opposed the central government's decision of re-christening Christmas Day, and even state units had assured people that they wouldn't impose Good Governance Day here.

Local units of the saffron party now stand on opposing sides of the debate. Visasoilie Lhongu, Nagaland state BJP president, told Firstpost, "We are being criticised by the church for stepping into religion, by asking Christians to observe Good Governance Day."

 Rechristening Christmas: BJP tweaks good governance day for North East, says change not mandatory

In Christian-dominated North East, Christmas Day is celebrated in a big way. AFP

He added that it was always going to be a tough ask, getting people's participation on seminars organised on Christmas Day,  considering over 90 percent of the state's residents are Christians. "We can definitely get a fair number of participants if it is organised on a day other than Christmas," he added.

Lhongu suggested that the Centre change the date Good Governance Day is observed in states which have a large Christian population.

The Nagaland Baptist Church Council had earlier demanded the NDA government reverse its Good Governance Day notification, saying it would go down in history as a discriminatory move against religious minorities. It had also criticised the NPF-led DAN state government for "betraying the trust of the people, by continuing to adore and glorify leaders who have systematically dismantled the secular fabric of the country".

The Nagaland state government has still not planned any programmes for Good Governance Day. The Naga People's Front (NPF), in a central executive council meeting on 29 November, had appealed to the Centre to not impose Good Governance Day on Christmas Day.

Jyoti Kalash, resident commissioner of Nagaland House in Delhi, told Firstpost that he has received no specific instructions in this regard. "It is likely that the Nagaland government will observe a holiday on 25 December as usual," he said. "Since it is a Christian majority state, and Christmas is the only major festival for the community, it's unlikely the government will function on that day."

Kalash, who has been in the present position since a long time, further added that Nagaland also didn't observe Good Governance Day last year.

Meanwhile, the Mizoram unit of the BJP has moved even further away from the Centre's diktat. State president of the BJP in Mizoram told the media, "The BJP led government at the Centre had declared 25 December as Good Governance Day to mark former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's birthday. But we want to assure the people of the state that it will never happen in Mizoram. This day will always be Christmas Day here."

Sources from the party have told Firstpost that the party has been forced to take up this stand because of the stinging public criticism it has faced ever since suggesting the rechristening.

David Thangliana, former journalist and resident of Aizawl, told Firstpost that no one in Mizoram supports the move, as they feel it restricts the religious freedom of Christians.

The Reverend Lalramliana Pachau, one of the Church leaders in Mizoram, further added, "We have not issued any public statement on whether to celebrate Good Governance Day or not. But we are definitely not in favor of it."

In Arunachal Pradesh, where the party officially supports the Pema Khandu-led government, the BJP released a statement clearing misconception among the people that Good Governance Day will replace Christmas Day. "25 December is a national Gazetted holiday. It will continue to remain Christmas Day for followers of Jesus Christ everywhere in the country, including in Arunachal Pradesh," the statement said.

The statement came after the Arunachal Christian Forum strongly opposed the move to celebrate Good Governance Day, calling it a strategy to cater to the local demands. The shift in BJP's stand on Good Governance Day is seen as an extension of the changing political discourse it had employed so effectively in Assam earlier this year. The party moved away from its rhetoric on 'Bangladeshi infiltrators' to 'soft Hindutva', and clinched Assembly polls in the state.

The present NDA regime at the Centre had said Good Governance Day will be observed across the country on 25 December, to mark Vajpayee's birthday. The move was heavily criticised by several quarters, since observing this day required government officers and staff to remain present in office on Christmas, a gazetted holiday.

Updated Date: Dec 10, 2016 14:48:37 IST