New Delhi: India’s Hindu nationalist party that has opposed any move to nullify the Supreme Court’s re-criminalizing of consensual same-sex relations has won the general elections dealing a huge setback to scrap a colonial-era law that made it punishable by up to life imprisonment.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP, Indian peoples party), till now the main opposition party, has won a majority in parliament, trouncing the ruling Congress party to form the next federal government.
India’s national elections for 543 seats in the lower house of parliament began April 7 and ended May 12. The elections are the world’s largest with 814 million registered voters.
Results are yet to be officially declared but the BJP by itself won a majority with 284 seats and have 50 more if traditional allies are included. This is the first single party majority since elections in 1984. The ruling Congress managed to win just 44 seats, its lowest ever.
The BJP has opposed any move to nullify the Supreme Court’s re-criminalizing consensual same-sex relations and said it would not scrap Section 377, the colonial-era law that defines same-sex relations as “unnatural” and punishable by up to life imprisonment.
The Supreme Court in January chose to retain the law which the Delhi High Court in 2009 had decriminalized.
The Congress party had promised to amend the current law to ensure consensual same-sex relations between adults are not criminalized.
Prior to the elections, BJP party chief Rajnath Singh went to the extent of saying that “Gay sex is not natural and we cannot support something which is unnatural.”
The BJP is the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, national volunteers´ corps), the umbrella forum of Hindu organizations that opposes gay rights and equality laws and is blamed for vigilante style moral policing across India, where more than 85 percent of the 1.2 billion people are Hindus.
The RSS has made it clear that it will oppose gay rights or any change in the law to decriminalize same-sex relations as that goes against India’s “traditions, conventions, culture and life-values,” according to RSS general secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi.
Almost all BJP members belong also to the RSS, including BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi who is all set to be sworn in as head of India’s next federal government.
While BJP and the RSS have vehemently opposed gay rights, Modi has remained silent. However, his stand is unlikely to be different given that he is member of both the BJP and the RSS and bound to uphold their anti-gay stance.