Bangalore (Agenzia Fides) - "The election result in Karnataka could be a decisive moment in India's recent political history. The defeat of the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), the ruling party until now in the state and also currently in the federal government, means that the doors of democracy are still wide open in the country. It is a significant result also looking ahead to the general elections scheduled for 2024", is the comment of Indian Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash, an intellectual and writer, on the May 10 elections in Karnataka, a vast federal state in south-western India with a population of about 70 million, which voted for the renewal of the state parliament. According to official results, the nationalist BJP party of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which had the majority, came out heavily defeated in the vote. As reported by the Election Commission of India, the Congress Party won 135 of the 224 seats in the assembly, while the BJP gained 66 seats. In this situation, the Congress Party would be able to form a state government without coalition partners.
2023 is a crucial year for Indian politics. Elections are scheduled in five states of the Federation: in Karnataka, in Madhya Pradesh (where the BJP is in government), in Rajasthan and in Chattisgarh (led by the Congress Party), Telangana (now governed by a regional party).
"The elections in Karnataka - Prakash notes - are a watershed. The BJP invested a lot in the last days of the election campaign, with the presence of high-ranking politicians and also with a door-to-door campaign. But people areprimarily looking at the issue of survival: the cost of living has soared. And those who have governed so far have made it extremely difficult for the poor to make ends meet. In particular, they have no purchasing power: the cost of fuel is skyrocketing, they survive by the day, while unemployment is at an all-time high".
According to the Jesuit "corruption is another systemic problem that has plagued Karnataka. Several ministers have been accused of having accumulated staggering amounts of wealth through corrupt practices", he recalls.
Furthermore, Father Prakash notes, the inter-community and inter-religious polarization promoted by the BJP, has not had the desired effects: "Karnataka was once a haven of social harmony but, over the past few years, through a meticulously divisive campaign, denigrating religious minorities, the BJP has polarized communities according to religious divisions, fomenting tensions. The BJP introduced a draconian anti-conversion law, criminalizing religious conversion and change of personal faith. Furthermore - recalls the religious writer - thousands of names of Muslim and Christian communities have disappeared from the electoral lists and have not been able to exercise their right to vote, despite protests sent to the Electoral Commission".
Non-governmental organizations and Christian communities in the state complain that "freedom of speech and expression have suffered a severe blow in Karnataka. Attempts have been made to block or silence those who take a stand for justice, truth and equality, and among them are lawyers, priests, religious, intellectuals".
Now the population, notes Father Prakash, has rejected all this. "The election result shows that in Karnataka there is a vibrant civil society, a network of citizens deeply concerned and committed to democracy and freedom, who wanted to promote change for the good and the future of India". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 15/5/2023)