How the Demolition of a Church in Delhi Intensified TMC Versus AAP Battle in South Goa’s Benaulim

Little Flower Church in Delhi, which comes under the Archdiocese of Faridabad, was demolished in July last year. But seven months on, the matter has taken centre stage in Goa politics with the upcoming assembly elections, particularly in Benaulim constituency.

In the South Goa constituency, NCP MLA Churchill Alemao, who recently jumped ship to the TMC, is pitted against AAP’s Captain Venzy Viegas. But you’d ask, what is the connection between the demolition of a church in Delhi and Benaulim in Goa?

Four days ago, Alemao, on behalf of his lawyer filed a writ petition before the Delhi High Court, challenging the demolition of this church. He alleged that Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was “fooling” Goans by claiming that he was unaware of the matter. Viegas, however, hit back at Alemao and alleged that he was banking on communal politics for electoral gain.

A few days ago, the Faridabad diocese issued a formal statement that the issue was being politicised ahead of the Goa elections. “It is embarrassing that such a move, at this point of time, just before the elections maybe interpreted as trying to use the church and religion for petty political gains,” reads a statement signed by Father Frijo Tharayil, PRO, Diocese of Faridabad.

Keeping in view the reaction of the diocese, Alemao was forced to hold a press conference, where he talked about how he had tried helping people of different faiths when such incidents happened. “I did it following my conscience. I never used religion for political gains. I even visited the church when it was demolished last year with my daughter, out of our own free will. No priests invited us then,” he said.

Speaking exclusively to CNN-News18, Viegas said it was a sad state of affairs that Alemao, a Catholic, had resorted to such tactics where the bishop had been forced to intervene.

“The people of Goa should know that this drama will not sell. The bishop is a man we look up to and he guides us all and has exposed Alemao by putting out a statement. The Catholics of Colva, Carmona, Benaulim, Varca, Cavellosim, Seraulim have seen the bluff,” Viegas added.

Viegas, who was also instrumental in opening a helpline number during the coronavirus pandemic in his village, also said Alemao was missing during the pandemic and alleged that he was distributing freebies now.

“It’s all about him winning and his family being in power. This last resort to falsify on religious grounds is totally untrue when everyone knows now that the DDA, which comes under the BJP, demolished the church,” Viegas said.

Some Benaulim residents, meanwhile, told CNN-News18 that the move had backfired on Alemao. A former chief minister, Alemao, by raising the issue had managed to connect well with the voters. “But, with the diocese coming out in the open against Alemao, the truth is known,” a voter said.

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