Cardinal urges to vote for secular parties that protect the Indian Constitution
AS PUBLISHED BY TIMES OF INDIA
The head of the Catholic Church in India, Oswald Cardinal Gracias recommended that citizens vote for a secular party that protects the Indian Constitution, even as he received BJP MP Poonam Mahajan and Congress aspirant Milind Deora who came to seek his support ahead of Monday’s general election in Mumbai.
Cardinal Gracias had issued a pastoral letter March 14 saying that India needs leaders who “understand that authority is service, listen to the people, understand their anxieties and their needs and respond effectively.”
In an interview to TOI Thursday, Cardinal Gracias assessed the economic and social changes that have come into effect since the Narendra Modi government took oath in 2014. The Cardinal had proposed a vote for “good governance” at the time. “I do see a certain insecurity among minorities, although I do not think it is required. India is a free country. Yes, whichever party is elected must uphold the secular traditions of the Indian Constitution, which has the best framework to protect universal rights. Our government must work for the economy, ensure safety of women and children, minorities, tribals and Dalits. Social harmony is important to progress. A country’s greatness is measured by its care for weaker sections,” he said.
He has broached the subject of attacks on the Christian community with the government. “I am worried about polarisation. There must be peace and there must bereconciliation. But I have met PM Modi and I can see he is trying. Nobody wants injustice. But the government should give a clear signal that injustice or exploitation is not acceptable. That law and order will be observed.”
The Catholic community has been at the forefront of providing quality education and healthcare. Cardinal Gracias said, “Thankfully, the government is now consulting our education commission over the changes they had planned to the syllabi, and I am happy that these have been put off for now. One needs to keep long term welfare in mind. Tampering with education has the capacity to alter the mentality of people. Even things like changing names of places can have a similar effect. One must not change history to suit one’s ideology. We should preserve and promote scientific temper at all times. Truth is truth. One should not be afraid of the truth.”
The Cardinal is besieged by a slew of political opinions, including alarmists who say General Election 2019 may be the last election as we know it. “I personally do not incline toward that thought. I have full faith in the ethos of the Indian people. They are wise and mature, not easily swayed.”
“I am slightly disappointed that Mumbai has historically had a low voter turnout. Every citizen must exercise his franchise. This is his right of course, but also his duty, his Constitutional obligation. Individuals tend to think that a single vote does not count. Butimagine what would happen if every citizen thought so. We have devised a campaign urging people to come out and vote.”
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