Influential Muslim clerics, such as Imam Bukhari, may have announced support to Sonia Gandhi-led Congress, but the code of Canon law prevents Catholic priests from espousing any political party. Be that as it may, a flurry of activity is underway among two and a half lakh Christians in the city to pitch for the ‘right’ candidate.
Some Christian organisations are appealing to members of the community to vote only for the Congress in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, while a significant lot is disillusioned with the Congress. “We all want to vote for a good, non-corrupt candidate, who is also secular-minded,” said Diago Almeida, president of the Catholic Association of Pune.
However, Almeida also pointed out that the recent hate speech by BJP general secretary Amit Shah about seeking revenge for the insult inflicted in Muzaffarnagar riots in UP, and the BJP manifesto that reiterates building a Ram Mandir, have only fuelled apprehensions that a BJP government may leave its saffron imprints on the bureaucracy and police.
Markas Deshmukh — chairman of the Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission, Kedgaon, and a Protestant leader — said several Christians are also unhappy with the Congress. “We have always blindly voted for the Congress. However, till date there has been no Christian MLA or any powerful voice in a legislative body to voice issues of the community,” Deshmukh said, fearing that a large section of the community is mulling pressing the ‘none of the above’ button.
For John Paul, president of the Indian Christian movement, the Aam Aadmi Party is not much of a choice as he fears it will split the votes and indirectly help the BJP. “We have decided to vote for the Congress,” said Paul, who hails from Yerawada.
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Father Malcolm Sequeira, Vicar General of the Diocese of Poona, told Newsline that the clergy cannot declare support for any party. “At all the parishes, we have been praying for peaceful election of a strong and secular-minded candidate,” Father Malcolm said. He admitted that there is fear and insecurity among the minority community this elections as no party is assuring to take up its cause.
“Christians will have no security if Narendra Modi comes to power,” said Sharon Cordeiro, a school teacher, who plans to support any party that understands their problems.
There is a lurking fear about right wing groups coming to power, John Dayal, a prominent Christian activist has been quoted as saying in various Christian newsletters. He said the minorities have grave apprehensions on the conduct of a new government that may be led by the BJP and Modi.