Thursday, 20 February, 2014

Elections in India: A Christian response

A discussion on the upcoming elections in India was held at the Zigenbalg chapel yesterday from 8:50 A.M. to 10:30 A.M. The resource persons Rev. Dr. David Selvaraj, the director of Visthar and Mr.Stephen David, Director of Centre for Contemporary Issues (CCI) did an initial presentation which was followed by questions from the students and faculty present. 

Rev. Dr. David Selvaraj started his presentation on “Modi as a phenomena” by quoting from the Talmud and saying that “Who can and does not protest is an accomplice to the act.” He made three points. The first one was that Narendra Modi was a Hindutva zealot and worker of the RSS. He should therefore be seen as an embodiment of a certain kind of nationalism. Rev. Selvaraj urged the community to remember Ayodhya, Godhra and what happened in Karnataka as well. His second point was on Techno India and Modi’s development paradigm. He reminded the listeners that Gujarat had always been an entrepreneurial state and the development is not because of Modi. What Modi has done is to open Gujarat to the corporate sector and play out his version of corporate globalisation. Finally Rev. David talked of the iron fisted governance of Modi and the collapse of democratic governance. He concluded by asking the question as to what all this meant to Christians.

Veteran journalist Stephen David touched on the origins of the Indian National Congress and tried to draw a parallel with how Allan Octavian Hume and Arvind Kejriwal (AAP) founded their respective parties as a mark of protest against the establishment. The DNA of all political parties are the same although the outer shells vary, he added. 

Contrary to public perception organisations like the RSS have their sympathisers in major political parties beyond the BJP. Politics, today, is about power, position and money and not just service as we are made to believe. Electoral politics today is a multi-crore PR exercise and the major parties have unleashed a huge PR drive. That includes Gujarat and its chief minister and BJP PM candidate too. India Inc especially seems to have thrown its weight behind Modi because of his atleast perceived biz-friendly politics. 

The church or the Christian community needs to embrace the Nazarene mission (Nazareth Manifesto), reaching out to a section of the society that is generally neglected by the mainstream. There is a lot of hype about IT but IT is infotech enabled services. Stephen David quoted one of India's top scientists telling him in an interview that most of the youth are drawn away into these IT enabled services companies seriously affecting the S&T pool. India's IT is more about services than creating products, he said. David encouraged the community to engage with the political process in the country. He felt that people like Modi will come and go but we have to be part of the political process so that people on the margins benefit. India's youth power, the demographic dividend, will be a crucial factor in the coming decades.

Questions from the students and faculty ranged from voting to televangelists and who was the lesser evil in politics. There was a general consensus that the church should involve itself more outside and get its hands dirty. Selvaraj quoted Pope Francis on the "market of tyranny" and "economy of exclusion" and urged the church to engage with the political process in the country, and not just the 2014 electoral politics. He exhorted the audience to look at 2019 as well and begin the process of engagement without much delay.

The session which was moderated by Rev. Dr. David Joy included a welcome by Fr. Jerry Kurian and final comments and vote of thanks by Rev. Dr. Evangeline Anderson Rajkumar.


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