An influential Christian group Friday made an appeal to the Election Commission to “either anticipate or postpone” the Lok Sabha elections scheduled for April 18 as the day ‘Maundy Thursday’ is a holy day which commemorates the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), the apex body of the Catholic Church in the country, made the plea in a letter to the Election Commission (EC). It informed the EC that “with the important election date clashing with the Religious Services Maundy Thursday, Christians may find it very difficult to fulfil both the calls for worship and for electoral duties specially those called to be poll officers or are placed on other active polling duties.”
Christians celebrate Easter with three intensive days of prayers–Maundy Thursday which commemorates the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples after which he was arrested, Good Friday which observes the day of Crucifixion and death of Jesus and Easter Sunday which celebrates his resurrection. Good Friday is a public holiday and Easter is on Sunday.
The EC has scheduled polling for these days. In his letter to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, the CBCI’s secretary general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, said”We know April 18, Maundy Thursday, is not a public holiday but most Christians either take leave from work or come back early to participate in the sacred worship.”
It said the Church was not making the request to him on grounds of religious sentiments but rather in view of the difficulties of logistics as well as hardships that may be faced in view of the election date fixed for April 18 in some states. During polls, a large number of booths are placed in the vicinity of Churches and in schools run by the Church, the CBCI said.
“Given the exigencies of the mode of conduct of Elections as well, as special security needs for polling, your office also may find difficult to conduct the election as I am sure you would not like to deprive millions of Christians the opportunity to worship in their stipulated and consecrated places of worship during days which they consider most holy,” it said.
The letter said “a change in the announced date may cause inconvenience to you, your office and to your collaborators. But our apprehensions are that, not changing the date may create avoidable but much bigger difficulties for all in the conduct of the polls.” According to the letter, Lok Sabha elections are scheduled to be held on April 18 in Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.