Hindu nationalists and radical monk Yogi Adityanath win in India’s most populous state. They also lead in Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur. “We respect the verdict,” said Bishop Mathias of Lucknow, but there is fear about the fate of minorities. The government should show that slogans about development “are not just words but translate into reality.”
Lucknow (AsiaNews) – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party has won the latest round of elections in five Indian states.
During counting today, all eyes were on Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, key for the balance of power even at the national level.
As the count progressed, it became increasingly clear that the local chief minister, the radical monk Yogi Adityanath, was consolidating his lead. He is seen by many as a possible heir to Modi himself.
Known for his anti-Muslim views in a state where Muslims represent 20 per cent of the population, Adityanath was clearly beating his challenger Akhilesh Yadav, leader of the Samajwadi Party, becoming the first local chief minister to win a second term in 37 years.
In addition to this victory, the Bharatiya Janata party[*] (BJP) won again in Uttarakhand and is largely in the lead in Manipur and Goa. In Punjab, the Indian National Congress party lost badly.
Increasingly, the once might Congress is losing ground to the Aam Aadmi Party[†] (AAP) as the main opposition to Hindu nationalists. Founded as an anti-system political force in 2012, the AAP controls the government of the capital territory of Delhi.
Speaking to AsiaNews from Uttar Pradesh, Bishop Gerald John Mathias of Lucknow, said: “We respect the verdict of the people,” but “seeing the past performance of the government, minorities, Christians, will face harder times ahead.”
In his view, extremist groups could now be “emboldened to carry out attacks against Christians. That is the fear unless the government changes its mindset and way of governance to make sure that ‘there be support for all, development for all’ (Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas), so that its slogans are not be words but translate into reality.”
“Many of the poor and Dalits are still neglected,” he bemoans. “The government should take care of all people. Healthcare and farmers’ issues must be addressed.” However, “Nothing concrete has been done as yet.”
“Government hospitals are still in bad shape” and “government schools need equipment and good facilities for children. [. . .] The new government should concentrate on development and maintain peace and harmony among people of all faiths, not give rise to fear among the minority community.”
For Father Vineet Vincent Pereira, a Catholic priest from Uttar Pradesh, dark clouds are forming. In Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), the clergyman was beaten, arrested and then released.
"Minorities,” he told AsiaNews, “will be cornered, and many village churches and house prayers services will be closed. Only established churches will allowed to function, but these too will be monitored.”
For his part, Father Anand Mathew has doubts about the security of electronic voting machines (EVM) at polling stations.
A member of the Indian Missionary Society, Fr Mathew served for more than 40 years in Varanasi and is now director of Vishwa Jyoti Communications.
He noted that, “except for the BJP, all parties are in favour of ballot paper voting. But the electoral commission controlled by the government wants to go ahead with this system, which they can manipulate.”
“The incidents in Varanasi on 8 March – transporting EVMs by trucks out of the strong room by the District Collector – are clear indications of this blatant violation of rules.”
He believes that “Democracy is being murdered systematically by those who are appointed to protect it. It’s a sad scenario.”
[*] Indian People’s Party.
[†] Common Man Party.