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(Compass) Christians were apprehensive as voting began on April 20, the first day of India’s general elections. With the nation’s recent history of religious oppression, this year’s election could prove critical for the future of Christianity in India. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has worked hard in recent months to change its image, promising economic benefits to religious minorities and focusing on development rather than the Hindu nationalist agenda. However, its election manifesto also promises to extend anti-conversion legislation already in force in five Indian states. The opposition Congress Party has accused the BJP of misusing religion for political gain, reminding voters that the BJP was implicated in violent riots against the Christian community in Gujarat in 1999 and further violence against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. Proving that minorities have become this year’s hot election issue, Congress has promised “strict action against those who promote social bigotry.”