Delhi archbishop: Voters dumped Hindu nationalists due to church attacks

(Photo: . REUTERS / Danish Siddiqui)A protester holds a placard during a rally by hundreds of Christians against recent attacks on churches nationwide, in Mumbai February 9, 2015. Five churches in the Indian capital New Delhi have reported incidents of arson, vandalism and burglary. The latest was reported last week when an individual stole ceremonial items.

An Indian church leader says that if attackers on Catholic Church establishments in Delhi thought they could dominate elections in the Indian capital, the strategy proved wrong as a debacle by the ruling BJP party in polls this week showed.

That is the message of Delhi Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto, as the Bharatiya Janata Party sustained a stunning defeat in the Indian capital, yielding 90 percent of the seats in the federal legislature to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The archbishop said to that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should see the outcome of the election as an indication that the Indian people are mindful of a growing persecution against minorities in the country.

"The people of Delhi voted against the BJP and its attempt to polarize the voters in the name of religion," Couto said. "The result of these elections is a message to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi: he should think seriously about his behavior."

Winning 63 of the 70 seats contested in the election, AAP's leader Arvind Kejriwal is set to become Delhi's chief minister. AAP stands for "the common man."

The BJP, the Hindu nationalist party, which Modi leads nationally, took six seats.


The Delhi poll is the first major defeat for the BJP, which romped to power in the May 2014 national general elections in May 2014 that thrust Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, into power.

Modi conceded his party's defeat in the polls, congratulating Kejriwal in his victory. The prime minister likewise promised to support and cooperate with Kejriwal's program in Delhi.

For Couto, voters have appeared to take note of the BJP's glaring inaction at the face of increasing number of incidences involving attacks against minority religions.

"These elections were negatively affected by the attacks on churches," he said. "Five attacks on five different churches and the BJP, which was in power, stood by in silence. What's worse, it said that what happened was normal."

When the Christian community tried to express its agony over the spate of violence through a peaceful march, police forcefully dispersed "children, women, priests and nuns ... a gesture that the whole country has condemned," the archbishop said.

"The people of Delhi are disappointed and that's why they wanted to give Arwind Kejriwal a chance as the new chief minister," Couto said. "People have the pulse of the situation, on their States: their vote also shows the frustration of the people of India about the central government's behavior."

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