MUMBAI – A senior Indian cardinal has welcomed a new state administration led by a party which represents the main rival to the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP party, and which came to power in part on the basis on promises to respect minority rights.
Cardinal Anthony Poola of Hyderabad congratulated A. Revanth Reddy of the Congress Party, who led his coalition to victory in Telangana state in the south-central region of India on Nov. 30 and who recently took office as the state’s Chief Minister.
“Revanth Reddy’s ascension to this significant responsibility reflects the trust and confidence vested in his leadership capabilities by the people of our vibrant state,” said Poola, who also leads the Telugu Catholic Bishops’ Council (TCBC).
“Revanth Reddy embarks on a new journey. We are optimistic that under his leadership, Telangana will continue to prosper and flourish, reaching new heights of development and inclusivity,” said Poola, the first cardinal from India’s traditionally marginalized Dalit community.
“The Archdiocese of Hyderabad and the TCBC are eager to collaborate and support Revanth Reddy’s vision for a harmonious, progressive and equitable Telangana state,” he said. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to contributing to the welfare and upliftment of our communities, working hand in hand with the new government for the greater good of all citizens.”
Poola attended the swearing-in ceremony along with leaders of other local Christian denominations.
In early October, ecumenical bodies representing the estimated 8.5 million Christians in Telangana, including roughly five million who are registered voters, met in Hyderabad and submitted a set of proposals to the various political parties.
Key components of those proposals included naming a Christian to a ministerial position in the state cabinet, naming Christians as chairpersons of various corporations controlled by the state, ensuring that Christians are proportionately represented on local councils, and also allotting Christians seats in both the state and the federal legislatures.
In addition, the Christian groups proposed new funding for education, healthcare, social welfare and employment and also burial costs for members of minority communities. As part of that plan, they requested that residential schools for Christian students be entrusted to Christian organizations or missionaries with state support, including expanded educational scholarships.
Montfort Brother Varghese Theckanath told Crux that the manifesto was handed to Reddy during a Nov. 13 meeting of 1,800 Christian leaders from all areas of the state, and that his Congress Party agreed to address its proposals.
In advance of the election, the state-level Congress Party issued its own “minority declaration,” which, among other things, promised educational assistance for Muslim, Christian, Sikh and other minority youth; monthly stipends of roughly $120 to $145 to clergy from minority groups, including Christians; a one-time bonus of roughly $2,000 to newly-wed couples of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and other minorities; and the allotment of land and protection for Muslim and Christian graveyards.
According to Theckanath, the state’s large Christian population meant that the Christian vote was decisive in several local constituencies.