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Indian archbishop accused of violating election code

A pro-Hindu group sought action against Archbishop George Anthonysamy for allegedly 'influencing voters on religious lines'
Archbishop George Anthonysamy.

Archbishop George Anthonysamy.(Photo: facebook/Madras-Maylapore archdiocese)

Published: May 02, 2024 11:25 AM GMT
Updated: May 02, 2024 01:51 PM GMT

A pro-Hindu group has sought action against a Catholic archbishop, accusing him of violating the country's poll code by trying to influence voters on religious grounds amid India's ongoing national elections.

The Legal Rights Protection Forum (LRPF), aligned with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, wants the Election Commission of India to take action against Archbishop George Anthonysamy of Madras-Maylapore in southern Tamil Nadu state.

The forum's April 29 complaint was about an editorial Anthonysamy wrote in the archdiocesan fortnightly The New Leader Weekly.  While highlighting India's current socio-political situation, he also referred to the plight of Christians and Muslims under Modi’s rule since 2014.

The forum alleged it was an attempt "to influence voters on religious lines," so Anthonysamy violated the election code.

In his guest editorial, Anthonysamy, president of the Tamil Nadu Bishops Council, wrote that Christians, who comprise 2.3 percent of India's 1.4 billion people, must ensure 100 percent voting.

“Let us all vote,” he wrote, calling the election a "significant one... an election between two contrasting ideologies."

Editor Father Antony Pancras said they stood by the guest editorial and denied the allegation it violated the poll code.

“The archbishop indeed tried to inform people about the plight of the country's people, especially the minorities,” Pancras told UCA News on May 2.

But the archbishop did not give any instructions or ask people to vote for a particular party, he said.

Instead, “he was only appealing to people to vote as citizens,” Pancras added.

“Encouraging people to vote is neither a crime nor a violation of poll code of conduct,” the priest explained. 

Pancras also clarified that although a complaint may have been filed, "the archbishop has not yet received any notice from the poll body."

The model code of conduct for the national elections came into force on March 16 and warned against seeking or influencing votes based on caste, religion, and language.

India's seven-phased election to elect 543 members of the national parliament began on April 19 and will conclude on June 1. The results are expected on June 4.

Modi is seeking a third consecutive term in office, projecting himself as the champion of Hindus, who form about 80 percent of Indians.

The opposition Congress is accusing Modi of changing the secular fabric of the nation, which is guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

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1 Comments on this Story
Hate speeches and lies of course are not violations of the Model Code.
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