Congress leader alleges that Church opposed his candidature, quits politics

In yet another incident that shows how much influence religious bodies wield over ‘secular’ parties in India, a Congress leader from Goa has been forced to retire from active politics after the Church allegedly refused to back his candidature.

Aleixo Sequeira, who has been a power minister earlier in the state government, revealed that senior leaders of the Congress party told him that the Church in Goa was opposed to his candidature. He said this in a press conference, as per a report published by The Times of India.

Calling the Church’s decision shocking and surprising, the veteran Congress leader announced that he would be quitting active politics as party leadership had denied him a ticket. He promised to extend support to the candidate chosen by the party.

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This incident comes after the Supreme Court had banned canvassing for votes in the name of religion, caste or language.

Going by this incident, the Congress party appears to be selecting candidates based on what the Church says. Is this not a violation of the Supreme Court order?

Or is there a loophole because there is no overt appeal by either the party or the candidate or even the Church to vote on the basis of religion? This appears more like an appeal to “not vote” by a religious body. Church basically asked for a veto, not a vote.

OpIndia spoke to Supreme Court lawyer Ishkaran Bhandari to find out if parties or religious bodies could get away with such veto appeals instead of vote appeals. He agreed that this could be used as a loophole.

“The SC order (banning votes on caste and religion) was already difficult to implement as our constitution itself mentions caste and religion at various places, but this is a loophole that can be exploited by political parties and religious bodies to work around the order,” he said.

“Suppose there is a direct fight between two candidates X and Y in a constituency, though multiple candidates are in fray as is the normal case in India. A religious body wants their followers to vote for X. But they can’t issue a direct appeal to vote for X as that can put X in trouble due to the SC order. Therefore, they will issue an appeal to not vote for Y. Now it is going to be very difficult to prove that a negative appeal against Y helps only X, because technically there are other candidates in the fray too,” he explained.

So looks like ‘secular’ parties can continue to practice communal politics even after the SC order.

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