Indian Christians Celebrate Early Election Results

In a clear indication of the people of India yearning for "secularism" over "communalism," the Congress-led UPA is headed to win the monthlong elections over the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The latest trends showed Congress claiming near majority in the 545-seat Lok Sabha, which further indicates that Manmohan Singh will remain the Indian Prime Minister for the next five years.

"We will sweep the election. The Congress and its allies will form the government," Congress leader Motilal Vora told the Press Trust of India news agency.

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For the Christian community, the elections were of critical importance against the backdrop of recent attacks on churches and missionaries across the country.

The general secretary of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), Bishop D.K. Sahu, told Christian Today he was greatly elated by the outcome of the elections, after people voted out the non-secular parties.

He heaved sigh of relief that those responsible for the Kandhamal violence last August and condemnable atrocities against Christians were ostensibly given a "red" signal to lead the nation.

"They (Congress) should lead. Our prayers have been answered," he said.

"Christians wanted a secular government, and it is a very positive sign that Congress won the elections. But, the question remains: Will the government deliver results?"

He hopes that the new government will work assiduously to deliver good governance, effective administration, and enhanced security of minorities.

The east Indian state of Orissa, which was rocked by communal and sectarian violence on Christians last year, has voted sensibly by giving communal parties no room, Sahu said.

"The BJP has been completely wiped out of Orissa," he said, adding that "Christians in Kandhamal [district of Orissa] are jubilant and there is still a sign of hope for them."

Last year, in the aftermath of the murder of Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, a Hindu fundamentalist leader, Hindu extremists accused Christians for the slaying, and caused great havoc that wholly paralyzed the community. The violence left 50,000 people homeless and 4,640 houses, 252 churches and 13 educational institutions destroyed.

Bishop Sahu sharply criticized the BJP for its divisive politics and "Hindutva" ideology, stating, "We Christians are part of this country and are no outsiders. So we will remain as part of India and continue to involve in the development of this country."

Before the elections began on April 17, NCCI – which represents over 13 million Christians in India – along with the Catholic Bishops' Conference and other church groups released statements that urged the electorate to vote for a party or candidate who is committed to "secularism and communal harmony."

The Christian leaders pleaded with politicians to "address the issues of the nation holistically and not based on religion, which can cause communal disharmony."

John Dayal, secretary general of All India Christian Council, has also welcomed the people's rejection of communal parties and commented, "This is a golden chance in the history, where people are expecting a secular government to look after the needs of the country."

Some 713 million Indians were eligible to vote this year. According to the constitution, a new government must be formed by June 2.

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