DAILY CATHOLIC     TUESDAY     April 20, 1999     vol. 10, no. 77

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          NEW DELHI (CWN) -- The 13-month old coalition government led by Hindu nationalist BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) lost power on Saturday, April 17, when the ruling coalition lost the crucial vote of confidence in Indian Parliament.

          Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who had headed the coalition, called on President K. R. Narayanan and resigned the office within hours after the cliff-hanger verdict of 269-270 against the BJP-led government.

          "The nightmare is over. We wholeheartedly welcome the downfall of the communal regime," said John Dayal, convenor of the United Christian Forum for Human Rights (UCFHR,) reacting to the fall of the BJP-led coalition-- during the tenure of which Christians suffered considerably. UCFHR had recorded over 150 incidents of anti- Christian violence since last March, when the coalition assumed office after a nationwide general election.

          "What a relief!" exclaimed Jesuit Father Ambrose Pinto, director of Jesuit-run Indian Social Institute in New Delhi. "In all my life, I thought myself as an Indian. But during the last 13 months (when the BJP coalition was in power), I felt that I am a Christian in India," lamented Father Pinto. The worst damage the BJP did through its ideology of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) during its tint in government, Father Pinto said, was "to define national identity in terms of religious identity, as if Christians and other minorities are second-class citizens."

          "The government that has fallen failed to protect the minorities adequately and effectively, in spite of all the promises," said Archbishop Alan Basil de Lastic of Delhi, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, in his own reaction to the fall of the BJP coalition. Summing up the legacy of the coalition government, Archbishop Lastic said that "no other government has dealt with the minorities as they did." The escalation of anti-Christian violence during BJP rule, Archbishop Lastic said, showed the "ineffectiveness of those who should have prevented it."

          The Hindu nationalist BJP, with 182 members, had called the shots in the coalition government, supported by 100 other members of parliament belonging to 16 small parties in the 545-member Lok Sabha-- the lower house of parliament. But the BJP leadership was plunged into crisis last week when one of the smaller parties which had allied with BJP withdrew from the ruling coalition, depriving the government of its ruling minority and forcing Prime Minister Vajpayee to schedule a vote of confidence.

          After two days of heated debate on the no-confidence motion, the ruling coalition was dumbfounded Saturday noon when the amalgam of 24 opposition parties voted out the BJP coalition government by the closest of margins-- a single vote.


Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales. Both CWN and NE are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

April 20, 1999       volume 10, no. 77


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