New Delhi, Sept. 27: For the first time, a major Christian body has asked a political party to give poll nominations to candidates from the community, and the party has obliged.
The All India Christian Council, a conglomerate of all Christian denominations, wrote to Sonia Gandhi a few weeks ago requesting tickets for Christians in the Maharashtra Assembly elections.
The Congress has accepted two of the councils nine nominees, both political lightweights. Janet DSouza has been fielded from Ghatkopar — where she is up against a formidable opponent, the late Pramod Mahajans daughter Poonam — and an advocate, Gonsalves, from Vasai. Maharashtra has 18 lakh Christians, of whom 8 lakh live in Mumbai.
We had written to Sonia Gandhi early this month asking for deserving representation for Christians in the partys candidate list, and we are extremely happy, said Abraham Mathai, general secretary of the council, whose initials, AICC, are coincidentally the same as those of the All India Congress Committee.
The Christian community has played crucial political roles in Kerala, Goa and some northeastern states, but it had never before engaged in poll politics so openly.
Mathai said the council wrote the letter because it was aware of the importance of integrating with the mainstream.
Asked why the council wrote only to the Congress, he said Christians were traditional supporters of the party. Christians are considered fixed deposits for the Congress and not vote banks. Vote banks can shift their loyalty, but FDs never do that.
Council secretary John Dayal said Christians had always been under-represented even in the secular parties, including the Congress.
Christians have always been sidelined in the Congress because of the Christian background of its president. Scared that the RSS would link any Christian leaders rise in the power hierarchy to that background, many Christian leaders have been deliberately kept low-key, he said.
The Congress does have powerful leaders from the community, such as defence minister A.K. Antony, though he has desisted from mixing his religion and politics.