World’s largest democracy goes to polls

By April 16, 2009

India (MNN) — India's election season begins today and will
stretch across four weeks.

The incumbent Congress Party is secular and more friendly to
freedom of religion, but they're on the defensive. The Hindu extremist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
has also lost ground. Neither of these
two main national parties is seen as capable of securing an absolute majority
in the five-stage polls.

That leaves the election open to a power grab from one of
the other political parties. Stravers
explains it makes sense that the smaller political parties will grab up many of
the 543 parliamentary seats. No one will
have a clear majority, so the final result will kick off a mad scramble to form
a working coalition.

No one knows which result will benefit ministries more. Dave Stravers with Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India says, "We need to pray that the people who do
vote will also value the freedom of religion that is enshrined in the
Constitution of India. Also pray that voters will call their leaders to account to enforce
laws that protect people who convert from one religion to another."

In order to ensure voter safety, more than two million
security personnel will be rotated around the country over the five phases of
balloting that end on May 13.

More than 700 million registered voters are expected to make
their choices along religious and caste lines. Stravers notes that there is some tension. "Pray that there will be a peaceful election and that
whatever political environment emerges from these elections will be
friendly to the Gospel. People in India are very responsive to the Gospel;
the church is growing fast."

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