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Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Christian Strategy in Karnataka: Exercise your ‘Right to Vote’ and ‘Vote BJP Out’


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I spend most of my time analyzing the political, defense, and national security strategies of nations and religious organizations.

Strategies are a window to the mind and give you an indication of what makes the mind tick.

The Christian minorities, in particular the Roman Catholic denomination, have decided to work on a unique strategy that is undoubtedly pro-India in its form and appeal but in actuality, it is focused against BJP and the current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A month before the Karnataka elections, Archbishop Peter Machado of Bengaluru spoke to certain sections of the media and even released a message to the Christian community a few days before the voting. He diligently expressed the strategy being adopted by the Christians in Karnataka:

We call upon the voters of our State to elect only such candidates, who uphold and abide by Constitutional values, promote communal harmony, and treat everyone equally irrespective of caste, creed, and religion. Let us send a strong message through these elections that the people of the State will not accept communal agendas like Hijab, Halal, Azaan, Anti-Conversion, etc.

There is an organized and collective attempt to ensure that every vote is polled. We have found that 9000 voters were dropped off the list in the Shivaji Nagar constituency in Bangalore. We raised this issue with the election officer and steps were taken to correct it. We don’t know how many voters have been dropped off in other constituencies. Removing people from the list does not look nice,” he told certain sections of the media.

Often, people talk big, but when it comes to voting, there was a trend that many people would not turn up. This time, we have been making deliberate efforts to bring a change to this practice and to ensure as many votes as possible be polled in favor of secular parties.

The Anti-Conversion Bill in Karnataka and other parts of India is one of the issues standing out as a sore thumb in the relationship between the Catholic Church and BJP. Machado has been vociferously fighting it. He opined, “Forced conversion is only a myth. In the disguise of preventing forced conversion, this law is actually infringing the fundamental rights of the people. It violates the right to privacy and the right to personal liberty. A person who wants to convert has to submit a lot of personal details to the Government which is a violation of his privacy. It also curtails the freedom of a woman to marry a person of their choice irrespective of religion.”

In fact, Father Cedric Prakash who has been a constant critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a note that went viral on social media describes this strategy, so effortlessly. The strategy in my personal opinion is a perfect camouflage to the real intent of the Jesuits and the Catholic Church in their conflict with BJP, which is seen predominantly as a Hindu majority political party aimed at unleashing atrocities on minorities.

In his letter Fr Cedric Prakash reveals the strategy’s playbook in Karnataka and reveled in the success of the Congress. He expressed:

What is widely acknowledged today is the role of civil society in this victory. People from all walks of life were convinced that the Karnataka elections were a defining moment in the history of the country. Massive all-around efforts were made to get people registered on the electoral rolls and to exercise their franchise! The ‘Bahutva Karnataka’ and the ‘Wake up Karnataka’ campaigns were among those that left no stone unturned to raise voter consciousness and highlight the need and importance of preserving democracy in India. The Catholic Church in Karnataka under the leadership of Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore also played a significant role, particularly through the Karnataka Catholic Think Tank; their members were on the field for several weeks. These and many more!

On ‘Voting Day’, the Jesuit houses in Bangalore played host to several Jesuits from all over the State who had come in to exercise their franchise in the city. Interestingly, several Jesuits from Bangalore had gone to other cities and places in the state where they were registered voters. The Provincial of the Karnataka Jesuits had motivated all his men to cast their vote, whatever the distance or inconvenience. They were also asked to encourage others to do so! It was indeed a pleasure to see several Jesuits displaying their inked fingers whilst posing with renowned academic-activist Yogendra Yadav.

The Karnataka Jesuits have undoubtedly played a stellar role in the enhancement of the democratic process in the State. Their efforts began some months ago; they did so unitedly as a province, through their communities and institutions, individually and collectively, in the urban and rural areas and among all sections of society. Above all, they collaborated intensely in every possible way, with civil society initiatives like the ‘Bahutva Karnataka’ and the ‘Wake up Karnataka’, ‘Eddelu Karnataka’ campaigns and also with the Archdiocese of Bangalore. Some Jesuit institutions provided lodging and hospitality to human rights defenders and activists and also provided facilities for programs.

There was a wide range of engagements/involvements from mobilizing youth, encouraging first-time voters, and organizing public meetings. Painstaking efforts were made on campuses to create an awareness among students on Constitutionality and on Democracy; on the need and importance of exercising one’s franchise by voting for good politicians, who were neither corrupt nor communal but had the well-being of the people, particularly the poor and the marginalized, uppermost in their hearts and minds. 

A ‘Youth for Democracy’ campaign was initiated with an excellent manifesto that highlighted some key concerns of the State like Communalism, Corruption, Environment, Violence against Women,  Economic issues, Education and Healthcare, Besides the manifesto had several demands which they wanted the political parties to incorporate in their election promises. The All India Catholic University Federation (AICUF) worked relentlessly to conscientious youth and others of the grim realities of the State.”

A couple of weeks ago, Fr Cedric Prakash, termed the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi on Easter Sunday as an act of opportunism in an article he had written. He had stated: Political opportunism, therefore, refers ‘to the attempt to maintain political support, or to increase political influence, possibly in a way which disregards relevant ethical or political principles. At the top, are those who have mastered the art of political chicanery- and we all know who! 

In the article, he further elucidated: Given the constant attacks on the minuscule Christian population today, no one is willing to accept (with the exception of the gullible, the naive, and the ‘bhakts ‘) that the visit of the Prime to the Cathedral was but one of sheer ‘political opportunism’. The attacks on Christians in India today (and also on other minorities, particularly Muslims) take place with frightening regularity. These are not aberrations or isolated instances, as even some of the Christian prelates have the spinelessness to make them out to be. Christians in several BJP-ruled states are hounded and harassed; prayer services are disrupted; places of prayer and worship are demolished; false cases are foisted on pastors and Christian worshippers. 

Speaking to a section of the media, Sajan K George, president of the Bangalore-based Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), expressed, “The results of the elections in Karnataka are the reaction of the people to the hate mongers and improprieties of constitutional bodies at the cost of the lives of ordinary people in India and democratic values. With the targeted attacks on Christians by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in the last election campaign, the BJP silently shifted the political narrative away from the vikas-the mantra of ‘development’-that had attracted voters in the 2014 national election victory.”

Post Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi, J A Kanthraj, the spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Bangalore, said, “PM Modi’s gesture was wonderful as it came on a day when Christians celebrate Easter, marking triumph over darkness. We only hope it is not a one-time message but is taken forward.”

Kanthraj further went on to tell certain sections of the media, “We have invited the Chief Minister (Basavaraj Bommai) on three occasions recently. There was a flag-hoisting ceremony at St Mary’s Basilica, traditionally done by the CM, but he backed out at the last moment. Former CM B S Yediyurappa would come whenever we invited him. We also invited the CM on Christmas Day and New Year Day, but he did not turn up.”

The strategy is simple. Encourage the Christians to come out to vote and impress upon them to vote BJP out.


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