Christians on Edge as Indian Election Results are Announced

The official results have been tallied from the 2024 India election. It was the world’s largest election in history with more than 640 million votes cast over six weeks. But it was a surprise result as incumbent Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won far fewer seats than expected. Modi won an historic third consecutive term, but the result was much tighter than most were predicting. His BJP party won 240 seats, which is 32 short of the halfway mark in the 543-member decision-making lower house. But with key allies taken into account, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) secured 293 seats. It was far fewer than the 400 seats earlier forecast. Mr Modi’s BJP lost its outright majority, but the NDA bloc still has enough seats to form government. The opposition INDIA alliance, led by the Indian National Congress party, won 232 seats. More than a billion people, including 26 million Christians in the world’s most populous country, watched the results of the national elections on television.

Christians had been hoping and praying for respite, having experienced the worst attacks over the past three years under the Hindu nationalist government. The opposition had feared manipulation in the counting of votes. Civil society groups had also expressed concerns over the independence of the Election Commission of India. In December 2023, the BJP government passed legislation on the appointment of the chief election commissioner and the two other election commissioners by a committee composed of the prime minister, the leader of the opposition and a third member — a federal minister chosen by the prime minister, as reported by the Indian legal news outlet LiveLaw at the time. This was contrary to a March 2023 decree by the Supreme Court of India’s constitutional bench. The decree held that the committee must include the prime minister, the leader of the opposition in the Lower House or the leader of the largest opposition party as well as the chief justice of India.

Further, while the BJP’s top leaders, including Prime Minister Modi, openly referred to religion to ask for votes in their speeches in violation of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and the Election Commission of India’s model code of conduct, the Election Commission of India did not take any action despite numerous complaints filed, according to the Indian fact-checking website Alt News. Furthermore, the election has not been seen as fair, given the alleged means the BJP used to get donations. In January 2018, the BJP government introduced “electoral bonds,” government-issued, anonymized financial instruments that allow donors to fund political parties. These bonds are available exclusively through the State Bank of India. They sparked controversy over transparency and potential money laundering concerns, as they maintain donor anonymity. Months before the 2024 national election, the Supreme Court of India ordered the State Bank of India to release data on electoral bonds.

This data revealed that from April 2019 to February 2024, 22,217 electoral bonds were purchased, with the BJP receiving nearly 48% of the total redeemed bonds. This amounted to 60.6 billion rupees, or roughly $757 million, as reported by India’s Frontline magazine. Furthermore, over the past decade, the BJP has significantly deepened societal divisions, increasingly setting the majority Hindu community against the minority Christian and Muslim populations. According to the New Delhi-based United Christian Forum, 2021 witnessed at least 486 incidents of violence against Christians, making it the most violent year for this community in the history of India. This disturbing pattern continued into 2022, with nearly 600 attacks recorded. By 2023, the frequency of these incidents had escalated even further, significantly exceeding 600.

What exacerbates the situation is India’s rapid shift toward authoritarianism. In its 2021 annual report on global political rights and liberties, the U.S.-based nonprofit Freedom House downgraded India from a “free democracy” to a “partially free democracy,” as reported by the BBC. In the Democracy Report 2024 released by the Sweden-based V-Dem Institute, which tracks democratic freedoms worldwide, India was downgraded — from the status of an “electoral autocracy” in 2018 — to “one of the worst autocracies,” as reported by The Hindu newspaper. With the BJP still able to govern, albeit from a minority position, it could worsen the already increasing attacks on minority Christians and Muslims, and likely be perceived as an endorsement of Modi’s authoritarian style of governance.

Source: Christian Post

Print This Post Print This Post

Comments are closed