India's only Catholic priest-legislator in history dies

India’s only Catholic priest-legislator died at Dharwad village in Karnataka State on March 29. He was 90.

Father Jacob Pallipurath, who fought state elections in 1983 and won as an independent candidate,  was a legislator in the state assembly for one term. 

The funeral for the late priest who belonged to the Diocese of Belgaum, was held on March 30 at Hubly, Karnataka.

Known as Father P.J. Jacob, he was elected from the Kalghatgi constituency in Karnataka 38 years ago, defeating candidates put up by established national political parties.

He won with a majority of 496 votes over Congress party’s Fakiragouda Shivanagouda Patil and was honored by villagers with a procession of more than 3,000 bullock carts. 

Father Jacob was born in Meenkulam Anjal in Kerala’s Kollam district in South India. 

He came to Kalghatgi in 1964 after his studies in Goa and Belagavi and dedicated himself to work among the Lambini tribe of Karnataka state.

His election in the 1980s sparked a major controversy among Indian Catholics who debated whether it was proper for a priest or a religious to engage in active politics. 

The priest led several demonstrations to call for the development of Kalghatgi area. He did not stand for re-election after his term was over.

Although he won as an independent, the former Karnataka Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde appointed him the chairman of the fisheries commission with cabinet rank. 

The priest successfully networked to get drinking water to villages, roads, and other facilities to Dalit colonies and helped in efforts to set up vocational training colleges.

Father Jacob founded the Good News Welfare Society that runs various educational institutions in the state.

He was the recipient of the second highest civilian honor of Karnataka state, the Rajyotsava Award. The Karnataka University also honored him with an honorary doctoral degree. - Frank Krishner / RVA News

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