Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and RSS leaders slammed the circular released by Delhi archbishop calling for prayers ahead of the 2019 elections, terming it as a "direct attack on Indian secularism and democracy".
Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto, in his letter addressed to all the churches in the capital, called upon the Catholics to start a year-long prayer campaign for the "spiritual renewal" of the country ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The letter said the country at present is witnessing "turbulent political atmosphere which poses a threat to the democratic principles enshrined in our Constitution and the secular fabric of our nation".
" As we look forward towards 2019, when we will have new government, let us begin a prayer campaign for our country from May 13, 2018," the circular read.
BJP leader Shaina NC criticised the circular saying that it was wrong to instigate communities and to suggest them to vote for one party. "Wrong to try and instigate castes or communities. You can tell them to vote for the right candidate or party but to suggest to vote for one party and not another and term yourself as secular is unfortunate, " she said.
RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha termed the move as a "direct attack on Indian secularism and democracy" and attacked the Archbishop, saying bishops are accountable to the Pope and not India.
"Another big reason for this is after the formation of the Prime Minister Modi's government, church-oriented NGOs, received less money due to stricter laws. The Church organisations used to take this money for a variety of cause but in reality, utilise this only for religious conversions. They want a government to be made so that their conversion business flourishes," Sinha added.
Reacting to the letter, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said India is one of those countries where minorities are safe and no one is allowed to discriminate on the basis of caste and religion.
I have not seen the letter, but I want to say India is one of those countries where minorities are safe & no one is allowed to discriminate on the basis of caste & religion: HM Rajnath Singh, on Archbishop's letter to priests asking to "pray for country" ahead of 2019 elections. pic.twitter.com/JhsZCGVGIB— ANI (@ANI) May 22, 2018
Minister of State Giriraj Singh told ANI, “Every action has a reaction. I won't take a step that disrupts communal harmony. But if church asks people to pray so that the Modi government isn't formed, the country will have to think that people from other religions will do 'kirtan pooja.’”
Every action has a reaction.
I won't take a step that disrupts communal harmony. But if church asks people to pray so that Modi govt isn't formed, country will have to think that people from other religions will do 'kirtan pooja': Giriraj Singh on Archbishop's letter to priests pic.twitter.com/lyJw9cFdvp— ANI (@ANI) May 22, 2018
The letter, however, received support from the Bombay Archdiocese. “When a government has finished its term, and in elections a government is elected, it is a new government. Letter doesn't say a different government, it says new government. So, I don't see anything controversial with the term of the new government,” spokesperson of Bombay Archdiocese, Father Nigel Barret said.
When a govt has finished its term & in elections a govt is elected, it is a new govt. Letter doesn't say a different govt, it says new govt. So, I don't see anything controversial with the term new govt: Father Nigel Barret, Spokesperson, Bombay Archdiocese. pic.twitter.com/1teidyKd2u— ANI (@ANI) May 22, 2018