Ghosts in India

The folks over at getreligion.org often talk about "ghosts" in mainstream new stories--hints that there's a religion theme in there somewhere, below the surface.

Well, there's a great big one in India, where Sonia Gandhi is about to become the new prime minister.

It's really a remarkable story--the news out of Indian politics in recent years has been mostly about the rise of Hindu nationalism--and now, Ghandi, the Catholic widow of Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1991, may just be the country's Prime Minister.

Most of the initial news about this week's election in India focused on the "India Shining" campaign of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The campaign, which focused on India's economic growth, reportedly alienated many poor voters who have missed out on economic progress.

Ghandi, though, thinks that voters also rejected the Hindu fundamentalism of the BJP.

"The people of India have spoken," Gandhi was quoted as saying by the LA Times. "They have once again reaffirmed what we all believed in all along, what we all believed in our hearts, that the soul of our nation is secular, is all inclusive--is one."

It is ironic, that at the same time a Catholic woman may become the leader of the world's largest democracies--because she married outside the faith in 1968--the Vatican issued a new warning to Catholics not to marry Muslims. This ruling is apparently aimed at Catholic women who marry outside the faith.

The Christian Science Monitor has a different twist on why the BJP lost, at least from one party activist.

. . . by focusing on economics, at the expense of social issues - such as rewriting the Constitution to reflect Hindu values, and removing special privileges for minorities - the BJP has angered a half-dozen social organizations that make up its core base of support. Now, these activists want their party back.

"The BJP has deviated from the path of Lord Ram [a Hindu god] and adopted that of Ravana [the mythical demon that Ram slew]," said Praveen Togadia, leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a militant Hindu social organization that supports the BJP. "Hindus have taught the BJP a lesson."


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