Catholic take 43 per cent of Goa State Assembly seats, but remain BJP stooges
by C. T. Nilesh

Catholics won 17 seats out of 40, seven under the BJP banner. Nation-wide, Christians do not support the BJP because of its repressive policies vis-à-vis religious minorities. Change will happen only lawmakers assert their views.

Panaji (AsiaNews) – In recent state elections, the Hindu nationalist party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a landslide. In Goa, Catholics were elected in 17 seats, seven of them under the banner of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which holds power in Delhi.  Unfortunately, these Catholic lawmakers are nothing but "stooges of the party”, elected in heavily Catholic areas. An Indian political expert comments below.

Not since the first state elections in 1963 have Catholics won so many seats in the Goa Legislative Assembly: 17 out of 40 deputies. This constitutes 43 per cent of the total in a state where Christians, mostly Catholic, account for only 22 per cent of the population.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which holds power in Delhi, won 13 seats, electing seven Catholic candidates. With the support of a smaller parties and a few independent, it has gone before the State Governor Mrdiula Sinha to claim the right to form a government.

At the national level, Christians do not support the BJP because of its anti-Christian policy in many states, such as not granting visas to missionaries. In some BJP-ruled states, like Orissa and Jharkhand Christians have suffered abuse and persecution. But in Goa, Christians lost faith in the Congress party and voted instead for the BJP.

The BJP has ruled in Goa for the past five years. On the 3 March election, it lost some support as is wont for parties in power. The environmental effects of its pro-industrialisation policies are one cause. Despite this, the Christian vote gives the Hindu nationalist party a chance to stay in office for another five years.

Still, many Christians think that the seven Catholic MLAs can do little or nothing in a party that is itself not very democratic but follows orders from the head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu militant organisation.

In Mumbai, some Catholics who decided to run under the BJP banner pulled out disgusted. The presence of Christian names is just window dressing to get the vote in heavily Catholic areas.

Local observers do not expect any change in policy towards Christians even though this will all depend on how elected Catholic lawmakers will assert their views, interests and Christian values.

"Even if Catholics are elected, they become stooges of the party. So really speaking there's nothing for Christians to cheer about,” said Jamaluddin Sheikh, a Muslim journalist.

The BJP is considered more anti-Muslim than anti-Christian.