Indian Catholic News

BJP wins in crucial Gujarat poll, but support falls

Pro-Hindu party president says victory was a lesson to opposition indulging in 'caste politics'.

New Delhi: 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won sixth consecutive time in his home state of Gujarat, but the rival Congress Party bettered its position.

The election campaign and vote has been closely followed across India because of implications for 2019 nation elections.

As counting continued into the evening on Dec. 18, BJP workers began celebrating as the party gained 99 seats, enough for a majority in the 182-seat Gujarat legislative house. It also secured victory in the northern Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh.

Congress garnered only 77 in seats in Gujarat, with independent candidates and smaller parties vying for the remainder.

However, the result means Congress has vastly bettered its position compared to the 2012 election when it won only 61 seats, while BJP looks to have fallen well short of the 116 seats it grabbed five years ago.

The office of Rahul Gandhi, who took over as Congress president last week, tweeted that he had accepted the defeat.

"The Congress Party accepts the verdict of the people and congratulates the new governments in both states. I thank the people of Gujarat and Himachal with all my heart for the love they showed me."

Modi also issued a tweet thanking the people of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh for "their affection and trust in BJP."

"I assure them that we will leave no stone unturned in furthering the development journey of these states and serve the people tirelessly," he said.

BJP president Amit Shah said the results were a lesson for the party that indulged in "caste politics" and "dynasty" in a clear reference to the Gandhi family's influence on Indian politics.

Prabhakar Tirkey, a Christian leader based in Jharkhand state, said the counting trend showed Congress had improved its position.

The result indicated public disappointment after three-years of Modi’s rule in New Delhi, he said.

Now many people across the country would be given new hope by the "resurgence" of Congress in Gujarat.

Tirkey said that six months ago Congress was not considered capable of mounting effective opposition to the BJP.

Christian leaders said Congress improving its political standing in Gujarat would help pave the way for changes at the national level in 2019.

They noted that Hindu nationalist groups had stepped up anti-Christian attacks in states under BJP rule, especially since Modi became prime minister in 2014.

Intellectuals who challenged Hindu upper-caste hegemony, including literary figures, have been murdered amid greater intolerance towards free speech.

In the run-up to the Gujarat election, Archbishop Macwan of Gandhinagar, urged the faithful to pray that "nationalist forces" did not take over the entire nation.

Modi expressed shock over what he considered to be electoral interference.

Bishop Jose Chitttooparambil of Rajkot congratulated the BJP for retaining power in the state.

"The Church will continue its work for the welfare of the people of Gujarat," he said.

However, Bishop Chitttooparambil also noted that the result shows "some change in the attitude of the people" through the loss of BJP seats.

BJP leaders in Gujarat said the victory could be directly attributed to Modi as he led the campaign in the state, where he was chief minister for decades until shifting to New Delhi in 2014.

A defeat would have been interpreted as his failure.

A key poll manager for BJP told that Modi directly dealt with trusted local leaders, campaign workers and candidates, thereby helping to secure victory in some constituencies.

Source: UCAN

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