THRISSUR, India — Amid Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s landslide victory in Indian elections, the secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India said “the church should not be unduly concerned.”
“We should not be alarmed or be scared,” Archbishop Albert D’Souza of Agra told Catholic News Service after votes were counted May 16.
The BJP won a clear majority of 284 seats from the 543 parliament seats at stake, while the National Democratic Alliance it heads with other parties totaled 334 seats. Polling occurred in nine phases from April 7 to May 12.
On the other hand, the Congress party, which has ruled India for a decade, claimed only 47 seats compared to the 206 seats it had won in the 2009 election.
“This result shows the maturity of the Indian electorate. The people have given a decisive verdict for a change,” Archbishop D’Souza said.
Explaining that the church has a “prophetic role” to play, the archbishop added that “the challenge before the church is to take a stand and remain alert to ensure that the sanctity of the constitution is upheld.”
Ahead of the elections, the bishops’ conference issued an advisory urging voters to “elect the best persons … (to) uphold the democratic and secular character of our great nation and selflessly work for the peace and prosperity of all the people.”
John Dayal, Catholic human rights activist, said that BJP’s overwhelming victory “comes as no surprise.” But he added that “the crushing rout of the Congress (party) perhaps was not expected, not in this measure.”
While congratulating BJP party leader Narendra Modi, Dayal expressed optimism that he “would articulate, in words and in policies and programs, measures to allay the apprehensions of religious minorities.”
Pointing out that “civil society who had watched the acrimonious campaign and the speeches of (Hindu nationalist) stalwarts with some trepidation,” Dayal said he expected that “such elements will be kept at bay.”
During the protracted election campaign, a prominent BJP leader, Giriraj Singh, had said that all those who are opposed to Modi should go to Pakistan.
— By Anto Akkara