The 13-month old coalition government led by Hindu nationalist BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) lost power on Saturday 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.
    "What a relief!" exclaimed Jesuit Father Ambrose Pinto, director of Jesuit-run Indian Social Institute in New Delhi. Speaking to Catholic World News, he said: "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."

1:22pm 20/4/99 / Catholic World News


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