Ahmedabad: The Archbishop of Gandhinagar Thomas Macwan, has in a letter all but made a vote appeal without naming any political party or leader, but pointedly saying, "Nationalist forces are on the verge of taking over the country. The elections of Gujarat State Assembly can make a difference!" It is seen as a reference to the state's ruling party, the BJP. The Archbishop has said that his letter wasn't meant for the public and was "merely an appeal to pray."
Many have questioned the move on social media, asking why the Church is speaking on political matters and the electoral process. Thomas Macwan told NDTV that this is not the first time such a letter has been written. "Whenever we have had elections in the past we always tried to guide our people and we always encouraged them to go for their voting and also we tell them to choose their leader according to their conscience... And it (the letter) was not meant to be given for the public; it was mainly meant for the people to pray," he said, pointing out that Christians are a very small segment of voters in Gujarat.
Archbishop Macwan, 65, has addressed his controversial letter, dated November 21, to "Your Eminences, Graces and Lordships," and writes, "The results of this election are significant and it will have its repercussion and reverberation throughout our beloved nation. It will influence the course of our country."
The letter alleges that, "the secular and democratic fabric of our country is at stake. Human Rights are being violated. The constitutional rights are being trampled. Not a single day goes without an attack on our churches, faithful or institutions. There is a growing sense of insecurity among the minorities, OBCs, BCs, poor and so on."
He has requested Gujarat's Bishops to conduct prayers to ensure "we may have such people elected in the Gujarat State Assembly who will remain faithful to our Indian Constitution and respect every human being without any sort of discrimination." The prayers, he writes, will "save our country from nationalist forces."
Christians make up 0.51 per cent of Gujarat's voters, and are traditionally known to have backed the Congress in state elections. Thomas Macwan has been Archbishop of Gandhinagar for the last two years and is one of the most senior Archibishops in Gujarat.
Elections will be held in Gujarat on December 9 and 14 and results will be announced on December 18. The BJP hopes to be re-elected for a fifth straight term. The Congress is campaigning hard to try and reverse the trend.