ASIA/INDIA - General elections, tolerance wins: in peace, harmony and social progress - Congress Party in the lead: Bishops’ Conference spokesman tells Fides

Thursday, 13 May 2004

New Delhi (Fides Service) - “The people of India have voted for peace and social harmony. They have chosen not to give in to fundamentalism, not to mix politics and religion, they have demonstrated that they want a secular nation built on the values of tolerance and freedom”. As votes are counted and India’s Congress Party is in the lead, this was the comment voiced by Father Babu Joseph Karakombil, a member of the Divine Word Mission Society and spokesman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.
Contrary to expectations in fact the BJP Bharatiya Janata Party which headed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in government, has admitted electoral defeat and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is preparing to resign.
The BJP called early elections (scheduled for October this year) in view of good results on the political level, peace negotiations with Pakistan, and in the economic field, indicators of economy growth. All through the electoral campaign few observers doubted that the BJP would be confirmed. Its agenda of strong nationalist policy had given rein to Hindu fundamentalist movements following the Hindutva ideology of one people, one language and one culture”. In the meantime the Congress Party is celebrating its victory, although still only partial.
“The triumph of the Congress Party means there will be a change in India’s policies: it is in fact the moderate mind of the people not steeped in religious nationalism but champion of a secular state founded on values guaranteed by the Constitution. Minority groups, including India’s Christians welcome the outcome of the vote because they know Congress will adopt policies which are for tolerance and progress and which foster social and religious harmony rather than increase tensions. They have chosen not to give in to fundamentalism, and shown that they believe in the values of freedom and democracy”, Father Babu Joseph Karakombil told Fides. Christians recall that in its electoral campaign the BJP included the question of “forced conversions” and the Bill which requires a citizen to get permission from a magistrate to change religion.
According to the spokesman of the Bishops’ Conference the BJP was defeated for essentially three reasons: “unsuccessful economic programme favouring middle and upper class sectors leaving million of citizens impoverished and unemployed; policies towards religious minorities causing in social tension sociali in several states; break up of the Alliance of various regional parties with very different political aspirations and agendas ”.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 12/05/2004 Lines: 44 Words: 475)