Archbishop of Delhi Anil Couto’s letter to priests urging them to launch a year-long prayer campaign and observe fast on every Friday ahead of the 2019 general elections has sparked a huge political row with the Bharatiya Janata Party terming it as religious propaganda. Anil’s letter dated May 8 referred to ‘turbulent political atmosphere’ in the country that is threatening the democratic values and secularism. He said that efforts should be made to change the government when the country votes next year to elect a new government.
“It is our hallowed practice to pray for our country and its political leaders all the time but all the more so when we approach the general elections,” the letter reads. “As we look forward towards 2019 when we will have new government let us begin a prayer campaign for our country.”
This is not the first time such a letter has been issued by a priest. Ahead of assembly polls in Gujarat and NE states, a similar directive was issued asking people to vote against the BJP.
Meanwhile, the BJP has termed it as a religious propaganda and reiterated that the government is committed to overall development. Party spokesperson Sambit Patra said that the government is not biased and that his party as well as the government respect Christianity. “Sabka sath, sabka vikas, is the tagline of the government. It is an individual’s propaganda. It started right after the BJP’s win 2014,” he said. Patra also reminded that it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts on ground zero that led to the priest kidnapped in Yemen being freed as well as the resuce of 46 nurses from the clutches of the ISIS.
RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha has termed the move an attack on the country’s secularism and democracy. “This is a direct attack by the Church on Indian secularism and democracy, and this is a direct intervention by the Vatican as these Bishops are appointed by the Pope. Their accountability is not to India but to Pope,” Sinha told news agency ANI.
Sinha argued that one reason behind this could be the strict laws laid down by the government to check the misuse of money by church oriented NGOs. He said that after 2014, the government put the NGOs funding under scrutiny and strict rules were imposed check misuse. “The Church organisations used to take this money for a variety of cause but in reality, utilise this only for religious conversions. They want a government to be made so that their conversion business flourishes,” he said.