Following Election Losses for Hindu Nationalists, Indian Church Urges PM ‘To Ensure Inclusive Governance’

Modi’s ruling BJP regime has been forced to form a coalition government, after it performed more poorly than expected in the nation’s parliamentary elections.

Modi holds souvenir of twin saints in Jan 2015 in New Delhi gifted by Major Archbishop  George Alencherry - to celebrate twin canonization of Elias Chavara & Sister Euphersia.
Modi holds souvenir of twin saints in Jan 2015 in New Delhi gifted by Major Archbishop  George Alencherry - to celebrate twin canonization of Elias Chavara & Sister Euphersia. (photo: Anto Akkara / Anto Akkara)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose new coalition cabinet was sworn in last weekend following the fractured election outcome that stripped his ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of the majority it previously held, has been asked by the Indian Church to “uphold constitutional values and ensure inclusive governance.”

“We congratulate Narendra Modi on assuming the office of Prime Minister of India for the third time in a row,” Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Thrissur, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), told the Register June 12.

However,  Archbishop Thazhath pointed out, “This significant honor comes with an equally significant responsibility to uphold the democratic values and address the diverse needs of the nation.” 

The third Modi government will be known as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition, as Modi has to rely on regional parties since India’s 18th national elections dented his boast of expanding his previous majority, instead reducing the BJP to a minority with its 240 seats in the 543-member Parliament, down from 303 in 2019. 

In Uttar Pradesh state, India’s most populous state with over 231 million people, the BJP tally was trimmed to only 33 seats of the state’s 80 seats, compared to the overwhelming majority of 71 it won in 2019.

The BJP even had to suffer the embarrassment of its candidate being defeated in the Hindu holy city of Ayodhya, where the Modi government trumpeted the building of a grand Ram temple and Modi himself acted as the chief priest at the temple’s dedication in January.


Catholic Concerns

“The CBCI emphasizes the importance of respecting and safeguarding the Constitution of India, which is the cornerstone of our democracy. We appeal to the NDA government to work diligently towards upholding constitutional values, ensuring justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity for all citizens,” the Indian bishops’ conference said in a June 9 press statement, released hours ahead of the swearing in of the third Modi cabinet, containing 71 ministers.

“It is imperative that the government remains inclusive, transparent, and committed to the welfare of all sections of society, particularly the marginalized and vulnerable. We trust that under Modi's leadership, the government will remain committed to these fundamental principles,” emphasized the Indian bishops.

The CBCI’s litany of concerns diplomatically echoed the widespread critical media comments about the “embarrassing verdict” delivered by voters against the Modi regime, stripping away its majority.

“Voters in India have done for Indian democracy what the country’s Election Commission and judiciary failed to do: discipline and rebuke Prime Minister Narendra Modi for seeking to pit Hindus and Muslims against each other and for his cozy nexus with big business — whose dubious donations have fueled government policies that have increased inequality and distress,” said the WIRE news portal about the unexpected election results.

The CBCI statement also hailed “the spirited participation of all political parties and their candidates in this democratic process,” in an apparent reference to the surprisingly strong performance of the opposition I.N.D.I.A (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance), which is led by the Congress party that ruled India for decades after it became an independent democracy in 1947. The alliance won 237 seats in the Parliament, only 3 less than the BJP. 


‘Victory for Indian Democracy’

Several other Indian Catholic organizations including the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) and the Syro Malabar Church (SMC), came out with similar statements.

Describing the election results as “a victory for Indian democracy,” the KCBC press statement said: “It was noteworthy that ordinary Indian citizens were not swayed by communal polarizations or hate propaganda.”

While hailing the appointment of two residents of Kerala — an Indian state with a high percentage of Christians — as ministers in the new Modi cabinet, the Syro Malabar Church called on the local cabinet members “to lead India …. holding fast to secular ideals protecting unity and diversity and taking care of the rights of the minorities.”

The SMC statement alluded to Modi’s two previous terms from 2014-24, during which India’s BJP-ruled states oversaw an unprecedented rise in persecution of Christians with the apparent co-operation of the Hindu nationalist administrations.

The ecumenical United Christian Forum (UCF) that documents and monitors anti-Christian violence in the country reported that only 147 incidents of violence against Christians had been reported in 2014, the year when Modi’s BJP regime came to power. However, since then, the country recorded a continual rise in incidents, with 731 occurring in 2023.

Meanwhile, eyebrows have been raised over the inclusion into the cabinet of Kerala native George Kurian, a BJP supporter for 35 years who is not even a member of Parliament but who can be nominated to the upper house of Parliament from another other BJP-ruled states, in order to take his new government post.

This move has been described by critics as a ploy to win support from Kerala Christians by placing Kurian, who was raised as a member of the Syro Malabar Church, in charge of the new government’s minority affairs department in hopes of making gains in the next state elections due to take place in two years. 

“Why a place in Modi cabinet for Kerala leader George Kurian is no surprise,” according to a headline on the website of the national TV network India Today. “The appointment is seen as part of the BJP game plan to create a Christian vote-bank for the 2026 assembly polls.”

Suresh Gopi, a popular film actor who was the first-ever BJP candidate to win a seat in Kerala, was the other cabinet appointment from the state.


Christians Blamed for Setbacks

Meanwhile, the BJP has openly blamed Christians for losing both Parliament seats from the troubled northern state of Manipur, along with defeats in neighboring Nagaland and Meghalaya (both Christian majority states).

“A particular religion openly went against our governments in those states,” Himanta Sarma, the BJP chief minister of Assam, told reporters on June 6.

In Manipur, protracted violence has occurred since a conflict erupted in May 2023 between the state’s majority Meiteis, who are predominantly Hindu, and the Christian minority Kukis. The clashes have left more than 230 dead, according to the government’s official count. Over 50,000 Kuki Christians have been chased out from the Imphal valley, along with over 10,000 Meiteis who were driven away from Kuki strongholds, as a result of the simmering violence.

Refugee children at Churachandpur All photos by Anto Akkara 
Refugee children at Churachandpur.(Photo: Anto Akkara)

In the Inner Manipur parliamentary seat, dominated by the Meitei community, the Meiteis were “upset with the BJP, particularly with Prime Minister Modi for not even visiting the state even when it was burning for over a year,” the Wire news portal reported.

Requesting anonymity, Church officials and Catholics in Manipur shared with the Register that they are thrilled that the state’s Meitei majority abandoned the ruling BJP there and voted for secular Congress party candidates. 

Sarma’s comments blaming Christians for the regional BJP setbacks drew sharp criticism from Christian leaders. 

Listless refugees at Kangpokpi.
Listless refugees at Kangpokpi.(Photo: Anto Akkara)

“This is a pathetic statement,” Barnabas Nongbah, national vice present of All India Catholic Union told the Register June 13, speaking from Shillong, capital of Meghalaya. “The failure of the BJP government in Manipur to protect Christians and uphold law and order has opened the eyes of those who voted for BJP earlier in other states also.”