Christian and Muslim opponents of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP) have reacted with stunned disbelief to a boast made by a senior figure from within its ranks claiming the pro-Hindu party will remain in power for the next 50 years. The prospect is highly unlikely given the fact the BJP stands accused of persecuting minorities and mishandling the economy, seen through rising fuel prices
and unemployment, they said.
The boast came from BJP president Amit Shah while addressing the party's national executive on Sept 10. He said the BJP will not only win the 2019 polls but will also rule the nation of 1.2 billion people for the next 50 years. It met with widespread derision from social and rights activists and from among religious minorities. M.K. Venu, a political observer and journalist, said that in next year's general election the BJP will be judged by the people on the promises it made during the 2014 poll.
He dismissed Shah's claim as nonsense, calling it "hyperbole." "You can only rule the country for 50 years if you suspend democracy and elections," he said.
Joseph Dias, a prominent Catholic figure in Mumbai, said Shah's 50-year claim was not only impractical but also unnatural. India is a democratic country with many religions, cultures and traditions, he said. "Even dictatorial regimes would not be able to rule a country for 50 years in this day and age. What is the BJP thinking?" Joseph asked. For Ritesh Singh, a political commentator, the BJP's image of being a Hindu-centric party will compel more people from other faiths to vote against in the 2019 polls. This would especially be so since the BJP government "has been silent over the persecution of minorities including Muslims and Christians," he said. "There have been numerous international reports about this already. The fact is that the party is not going to be able to woo minorities again and that will be crucial during next year's polls," Singh told ucanews.com. Stunted economic growth will also work against the BJP, according to Milan Vaishnav, a director and senior fellow in the South Asia program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
, a foreign policy think tank. "Economic progress under Modi has fallen short of expectations, and anxiety over a lack of job creation has led to massive popular protests in state after state," he said.