Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Monday assured religious minorities of continued support and announced an increase in the annual number of beneficiaries, from 600 to 1,000 a year, to visit Jerusalem for pilgirimage with financial assistance from the state government.
Promising to positively consider several representations of Christians including site for cemetries, Palaniswami, in an apparent reference to his party's alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party for assembly polls likely in April, said electoral tie-ups were different from ideology.
Parties may switch alliance during elections but ideology is permanent and there shall absolutely be no compromise on adhering to All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's ideology of secularism, brotherhood, harmony and not discriminating people, the chief minister asserted.
"Ideology is different from alliance for elections which come and go," he said addressing a conference of Tamil Nadu Christian Democratic Federation in Coimbatore.
"We will not compromise on our ideology. No one born in the Tamil land need have any apprehensions and our government is safeguarding all people and it will continue," he said, adding AIADMK leaders visited places of worship belonging to all faiths.
"We don't differentiate anyone. God is one."
People followed their respective religions and the government would never allow anyone to interfere in matters of faith, the chief minister said.
"Hence, you (minorities including Christians) need not have any apprehensions. You have given a representation seeking land for cemetry. I am happy to say that wherever possible, the land allocation will be made," he said.
Announcing an increase in the number of beneficiaries to 1,000 from 600 for Jerusalem pilgrimage, he noted that the government had already increased the assistance to Rs 37,000 from Rs 20,000 per pilgrim based on the request of the Christian community.
So far, 4,328 Christians have undertaken the pilgrimage with Rs 8.25 crore financial assistance from the government.
On other requests made by them, he said it would be positively considered and suitable action shall be initiated expeditiously.
Rather than eyeing votes, the AIADMK had all along been committed to the welfare of the people, he said.
"Consider the AIADMK government as yours," he said and assured continued support to the minorities.
"In Tamil Nadu, nobody can do anything on the basis of religion," he said and underlined that the state was the forerunner in maintaining law and order in the country.
Praising Christian educational institutions for their services, he said the foundation for Tamil Nadu's development in the education sector was laid by Christians.
He also listed several other welfare initiatives like an increase in allocation of subsidy for renovation of churches from Rs 1 crore to 5 crore.