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Baptists cleared of Indian election violation

Letter asking party leaders in Nagaland not to support the pro-Hindu BJP gets the all-clear from poll watchdog

Baptists cleared of Indian election violation

The Election Commission of India said the Nagaland Baptist Church Council's letter to political party leaders does not directly concern the electoral process. (Photo by IANS)

ucanews.com reporter, New Delhi
India

February 15, 2018

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The Election Commission of India has found no violation of rules in Baptist Church officials asking people not to support a pro-Hindu party in Nagaland state.

An open letter from the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) asked local party leaders in the Baptist-majority state not to support the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of Feb. 27 provincial elections.

The NBCC said religious minorities such as Christians have experienced the "worst persecution" since the BJP came to power in New Delhi four years ago, the Times of India reported.

The BJP, which has four members in the 60-seat house in Nagaland, is the sole ally of the local Naga People's Front that runs the government with 54 members. Allying with local parties, the BJP aims to win a majority to run the state of two million people, 89 percent of them Christians.

The commission, however, said the NBCC's appeal to its own people "does not directly concern the electoral process or conduct of elections."

It had not violated the Model Code of Conduct or the Representation of the People Act 1951, which both ban political leaders or candidates running for election making appeals on the lines of religion or other sectarian ideologies.

At the most, the NBCC's letter could be seen as a violation of last year's Supreme Court guidelines banning sectarian appeals, including those by religious and spiritual leaders encouraging people to vote one way, the poll body said.

The commission said it would consider any complaint from an affected person or party.

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