Gandhinagar archbishop's letter against 'nationalist forces' risks polarising electorate, raising pitch in Gujarat election

The run up to Gujarat election couldn’t take a more communal turn than this.

Archdiocese of Gandhinagar archbishop Thomas Macwan  penned a letter issuing a directive to defeat “nationalist forces” and to prevent them “taking over the country”.

“Election results of Gujarat state Assembly can make a difference,” he added.

In his letter, Macwan suggested the Church influence voting pattern of the faithful to ensure victory for the Congress, albeit without naming the party.

The word for Congress candidates used in his directive is those “who would be faithful to Indian Constitution and respect every human being without any sort of discrimination”.

Macwan confirmed to Firstpost that he wrote the letter and added, “Every time an election takes place we write letters to guide people.  I don’t have mala fide intention against anyone”.

He claimed he was not referring to the BJP when he wrote of “nationalist forces”, explaining that in his view, nationalist forces were narrow-minded people, as against those who would protect the country and the Constitution.

 Gandhinagar archbishops letter against nationalist forces risks polarising electorate, raising pitch in Gujarat election

Archbishop Thomas Macwan

When asked if the Congress was the party which would protect the country and the Constitution and if he considered Prime Minister Narendra Modi a "nationalist force", Macwan said he was not naming any party or person and instead making an appeal to his followers to choose the right person and good leaders.

He also insisted that his letter was not communal in any way but only part of what he preached.

However, there can be no debate as to whom is referred to as a “nationalist force” in contemporary Indian politics.

The term is certainly never used to refer to the Sonia Gandhi-Rahul Gandhi-led Congress.

It is important to consider what Macwan said in his letter sent to “your Eminences, Graces and Lordships”.

“The dates of Gujarat State Assembly have been declared. The results of this election are significant and it will have its repercussion and reverberation throughout our beloved nation. It will influence the future course of our country. We are aware that the secular and democratic fabric of our country is at stake. Human rights are being violated. Constitutional rights are being trampled. Not a single day goes without an attack on our churches, church personnel, faithful or institutions. There is a growing sense of insecurity among the minorities, OBCs, BCs, poor. Nationalist forces are on the verge of taking over the country. The election results of Gujarat State Assembly can make a difference.”

While Macwan is seeking the consolidation of not just Christian voters but all minorities—OBCs, BCs and poor against BJP—he did not seem to realise that it could potentially polarise voters and lead to a majority versus minority situation.

According to Macwan, only upper caste Hindus and rich were safe in the country and could be supportive of "nationalist forces".

He continued: “The Bishops of Gujarat state request you to organise prayer services in your parishes and convents so that we may have such people elected in the Gujarat State who would remain faithful to our Indian Constitution and respect every human being without any sort of discrimination” the letter states.

The archbishop also expounded on how the Church has saved the world from disaster and it was now time to save Gujarat and India:

“The recitation of the Holy Rosary at individual, community, family and parish levels will be of great help. Time and again the Rosary has proved to be a protective hand. History bears witness to this statement. It saved Europe during the victory at Lepanto from being taken over people of other faith. Communist governments and dictators in a number of countries have been tumbled in the past through the protecting hand of our beloved Mother Mary. It has brought the level of abortion incidents in Poland from 30 percent to 4 percent. It will save our country from nationalist forces too!”

“Even the Lord while he was praying in the garden of Gethsemane asked his disciple to watch and pray. Let us take His advice seriously. Let us trust in our Lord Jesus and ask His help! We keep Mother Mary with us as a great support!”

Those uninitiated in the Christian faith and unaware of the importance of Jesus praying at Garden of Gethsemane should note the following:

The garden of Gethsemane is located on a slope of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It was this place where Jesus Christ went with his disciples t0 pray the night before he was crucified. This is also the place where Jesus and his disciples often camped at night. In this natural grotto, it is believed, the disciples slept while Jesus prayed.

The contents of the letter dated 21 November is so blatantly communal, its venom against the BJP led by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah—though it uses the term "nationalist" for BJP—that it is bound to spur a backlash from the majority community in a state which is perceived to be communalised.

The BJP is bound to make it a major election issue in campaign rallies.

In 2002, Modi would name then chief election commissioner James Michael Lyngdoh. The BJP’s charge against Lyngdoh was that he had purposely postponed Gujarat Assembly elections, held in aftermath of riots, to help Sonia Gandhi and her party. But the reference of James Michael Lyngdoh and barbs against him at public rallies remained limited to innuendo.

However, the appalling openness with which the archbishop has come out against the Modi and BJP—without naming them—has given rise to the possibility that the BJP would be more clear and direct while referring to the Church while taking on Congress and Rahul Gandhi.

Macwan, through his letter, and the Youth Congress throught its derogatory chaiwallah tweet on Modi may have, inadvertently, given the BJP what they wanted most: To inject emotion into Gujarat election.

Now, Gujarat and the rest of the country await Modi's response when he addresses his first election rally in the state in the next few days.


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Updated Date: Nov 24, 2017 03:40:45 IST