India's pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has named two former Christian pastors to contest Nov. 28 elections in Mizoram, a move widely seen as an attempt to wrest power in the Christian-dominated eastern state. R. Colney and H. Lalruata are among the BJP candidates in the running for the 40-seat state legislature, where the rival Congress party won 34 seats in the previous election five years ago. "It is not true that the BJP is a pro-Hindu and an anti-Christian party. This is one reason I decided to contest the elections," Colney told ucanews.com. "I am confident that people are with me," the former pastor said, indicating that 87 percent of the state's 1 million people are Christians. Himanta Biswa Sarma, a senior BJP leader, said his party will win the poll. He said Lalruata joined the party as he was impressed by development happening under the BJP-led federal government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Sarma, the finance minister of neighbouring Assam state, told reporters that Christians would not face any problems from the BJP
. He accused the Congress party of trying to use religious sentiments for political advantage. Mizoram is the only state among the eight northeastern states where the BJP and its allies have a miniscule presence. The pro-Hindu party and its allies are part of the government in six states in the region
but so far have not won a legislative seat in Mizoram. "We are here to contest in all 40 constituencies, and we hope we will form a government led by the BJP," party general secretary Ram Madhav told media on Oct. 3 while touring the state. However, state BJP leaders admit that their party faces hurdles with its pro-Hindu stance
. They said the party will repeat what it did in two other Christian-dominated northeastern states — Nagaland and Meghalaya — to become part of the government early this year. In Nagaland, the BJP won 12 of the 60 seats in the house but joined another local party to form a coalition government. In Meghalaya, the BJP won only two seats in the 60-seat house but stitched up a post-poll alliance to form the government, outwitting the Congress party which won 21 seats. Threat posed
During the Nagaland polls, the Nagaland Baptist Church Council had warned Christians of the threat posed by the BJP, which pushes for a theocratic Hindu nation. In Mizoram, no social organisations have come out openly against the BJP so far.
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Christian leaders like Vanlalruata (only one name) say they are aware of the BJP plans. "We have circulated do's and don'ts for all political parties for electioneering. We can react only when specific issues come up," said Vanlalruata, who is president of the Young Mizo Association, a non-government organization established in 1935. Vanlalruata said they will oppose government policies that go against Christian values and principles. The BJP now controls governments in 19 of 29 Indian states. Christian leaders have been complaining of BJP governments tacitly supporting the actions of pro-Hindu groups aiming to turn India into a nation of Hindu dominance. Such actions include harassment and attacks on Christians, which Christian leaders say have increased since BJP took power in New Delhi in 2014.