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Kerala results surprise poll analyst

Catholic voters 'ignored religious leaders’ political preferences '

Left-leaning Christians ignoring religious leaders’ political preferences affected last week's results in Kerala, according to an analyst. Christian voters ignored their religious leaders’ political preferences, said political analyst A. Jayashankar. He said Catholic Church leaders did not meddle with the elections directly, but did not hide their anti-Left Democratic Front (LDF) stance. The Church had sponsored many candidates and even threatened to field its own candidates, but the pressure tactics fizzled out. Pre-poll surveys had indicated the ruling LDF would get fewer than 40 seats in the 140-member state legislative assembly with rival United Democratic Front (UDF) winning around 100 seats. The LDF, headed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), eventually lost the election but managed to win 68 seats. The UDF, led by the Congress party, won 72 seats. Marxist leaders including Thomas Isaac, M. A. Baby and Jose Thettayil won with huge margins in Catholic-dominated areas. Archbishop Andrew Thazhathu of Trichur had given Congress president Sonia Gandhi six names of his preference but the party ignored his list and won six of 13 seats in Trichur district, four more than it got five years ago. Father Paul Thelakat, spokesman of the Syro-Malabar Church, denied there was Christian consolidation in the election. He noted a general perception that his Church had supported the UDF, while other Churches leaned toward the LDF, but said no bishop issued election guidelines as in the past. He said many Church leaders do not follow the late Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, who was “against Church leaders indulging in partisan politics.” Cardinal Vithyathil died 11 days before Kerala went to the polls on April 13. “It is always better to keep away from partisan politics because in the long run it will not be good for the Church,” Father Thelakat said. Father Stephen Alathara, spokesman of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, says the poll verdict is not a Church concern. “We told the faithful to exercise their votes without fear or favor,” he explained. He agreed that in many Catholic-dominated constituencies the UDF winning margins were rather narrow. “It seems some Churches took a pro-left stand,” Father Alathara added. Related reports Church not to meddle in Kerala polls Kerala Marxists say Church defeated them IB14246
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