Ahmedabad: The Election Commission (EC) has issued a notice to the archbishop of Gandhinagar for asking Christians to pray to save the country from "nationalist
forces" in the run-up to the Gujarat Assembly polls.
Issuing a letter addressed to the Christians, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Gandhinagar, Thomas Macwan, had last week urged the members of the community to save the country from "nationalist forces" as its "democratic fabric" was at stake, amidst a growing "sense of insecurity" among the minorities.
In Gujarat's political circles, the appeal was seen as an indirect call to vote against the ruling BJP.
Gandhinagar Collector and District Election Officer Satish Patel said that the EC issued the notice after taking cognizance of media reports and asked the archbishop to clarify his intention behind issuing such a letter.
"We have issued a notice to the archbishop, seeking clarity over his intention behind the letter, which was widely publicised in the media. We have given him a few days' time to
respond. We will decide on the future course of action on the basis of his reply," Patel said on Sunday.
He added that the letter seemed to be aimed at "confusing" the voters of the minority communities and misguiding them when the poll code was in force in the state.
"We understand that the letter was an attempt to misguide the voters and confuse the minority community voters at a time when the model code of conduct is in force. Such a language should not be used," Patel said.
In an official communique dated November 21, Macwan had appealed to the Christians to organise prayer services at parishes and convents, "so that we may have such people elected to the Gujarat Assembly, who would remain faithful to the Indian Constitution and respect every human being without any sort of discrimination".
"The democratic fabric of the country is at stake amidst a growing sense of insecurity among the minorities, other backward classes (OBC), backward classes, poor etc.," he had said.
"The results of this election are significant and will have repercussions and reverberations throughout our beloved nation. It will influence the future course of our country.
"We are aware that the secular and democratic fabric of our country is at stake. Human rights are being violated. The constitutional rights are being trampled. Not a single day
goes without an attack on our churches, church personnel, faithfuls or institutions," he said.
"The recitation of the Holy Rosary at individual, community, family and parish levels will be of great help. Encourage your faithful to pray the Rosary," he said.
In the letter, the archbishop had also cited examples of how such prayers saved Europe during the victory at Lepanto, referring to the battle of 1571, in which the Holy League of
Venetian and Spanish empires had defeated the Ottoman Empire in the Gulf of Patras, and how the "protecting hand of our beloved Mother Mary defeated communist governments and dictators in a number of countries".
The 182-member Gujarat Assembly will go to the polls in two phases -- on December 9 and 14. The counting of votes will be taken up on December 18.