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ICC Note: Christians and other religious minorities in India fear the looming May 2019 national elections will bring a new surge of religiously motivated violence. The current BJP-led government has admitted they will make the issue of religion central in the run up to the elections. Minorities fear this centrality of religion, more specifically the domination of Hinduism in India, will only inflame Hindu radicals and lead to more attacks on minority communities.

06/19/2018 India (UCAN) – National elections in India are due in May 2019 when the federal government run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) completes its five-year term.

Fears are growing among religious minorities, socially poor Dalit people and a section of opposition parties about religion taking center stage and triggering violence to the electoral advantage of the BJP.

Some observers even fear the possibility of a limited war with neighboring Pakistan to milk sectarian sentiments among Hindus, who form 80 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people.

However, circles close to the Prime Minister’s Office rule out both as “silly” possibilities. They claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s track record and several pro-poor schemes on the anvil are enough for his party to get re-elected.

The BJP appears to be in a dilemma — whether to push the Hindu nationhood ideology of Hindutva to sharpen communal polarization or to stick to economic growth and development as its poll plank.

In the run-up to the previous national election in 2014, the BJP marketed Modi as a development icon and anti-corruption crusader to woo centrist forces and ideology-neutral voters. Four years down the line, the government’s track record on both counts is dismal. So, what will be the narrative for the 2019 polls?

During a television talk show on May 5, senior BJP lawmaker Subramanian Swamy indirectly admitted that the BJP will use communalism to counter the rival Congress party’s caste-based politics and that development will only be a peripheral issue.

“Congress has been trying to divide Hindus on caste, which is a more dangerous thing. We were trying to unite Hindus by saying caste is not important, what is important is that Hinduism is in danger. Today we would think that if Congress comes to power, it will be catastrophic for us, so, therefore, this Hindutva thing will be done in 2019,” Swamy said.

Answering a question on why the BJP is looking backward and why its entire focus is on history, Swamy said: “I have studied elections since 1952, and peripherally economic issues come up.”

In its fifth and final year in office, Modi’s government is faced with multiple demons. On the economic front are high inflation, growing unemployment and an agrarian crisis, while on the social front is the alienation of Dalits, indigenous people and religious minorities.

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