MUMBAI, India – The Catholic Church says it wants to work with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in building a “New India” after his party won a resounding victory to confirm another term in office.
“On behalf of the Catholic Church in India, and on my own behalf, I extend my heartiest congratulations to you and to the Bharatiya Janata Party on the emphatic election victory. The people of India have given a clear mandate for a stable and effective Government,” wrote Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.
India’s 6-week long general election ended on Friday, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) winning 303 of 542 seats in the lower house of parliament. The party’s closest rival, the long-dominant Indian National Congress, won only 52 seats, with party leader Rahul Gandhi losing his seat in parliament to his BJP rival.
The BJP has strong links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militant Hindu nationalist organization. Religious minorities have complained of increased harassment since the party first took power in 2014 on a Hindu-first platform.
Modi took a conciliarity tone on Saturday, claiming the 2019 election was a force for “social unity.”
“It is generally said that the election divides, creates distances, makes walls. But the 2019 elections have worked to break the walls,” he said.
Just under 80 percent of India’s population is Hindu. The largest religious minority are the Muslims, who make up nearly 15 percent of the people, while Christians are only 2.3 percent. There are also a number of Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and members of the Baha’i faith.
In the buildup to the election, the BJP held a meeting with religious minorities to help the party develop a more inclusive manifesto.
Party leaders pushed their pro-business and muscular defense policies, contrasting them with the more socialist Congress party.
In his May 25 letter to Modi, Gracias assured him of the Church’s prayers and best wishes “as you lead our country in building a strong and inclusive India.”
“We are all eager to work together for the vision of a New India which your Excellency has spoken about – a New India which gives hope and energy to our youth, empowers our women especially in rural areas, opens new and sustainable opportunities for our farmers and strengthens our economy while leaving no one behind: A New India which enjoys peace and prosperity and continues to make progress,” the cardinal wrote.
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