By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 24 May 2019
On the news of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) winning a second term, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama congratulated Modi on their success.
The Modi-led BJP won by a landslide with 303 seats from the total 542. The elections went for six weeks, with the result being announced on Thursday. More than 600 million people exercised their franchise.
In the letter to PM Modi, the Dalai Lama wrote, “I pray you will be successful in meeting the challenges that lie ahead in fulfilling the hopes and aspirations of the people of India.”
The Dalai Lama has been living in India for the last 60 years since 1959, calling himself the “longest guest of India”. He set up the Central Tibetan Administration in McLeod Ganj in northern India that works towards for a negotiated settlement with the Chinese government for autonomy for Tibet, rather than independence.
Saying that India has a great ancient civilisation that practices ahimsa and karuna (non-violence and compassion), the Dalai Lama said he is committed to reviving the ancient Indian thoughts and understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions.
“I believe India is the only country that can successfully combine this ancient knowledge with modern education and ensure that people know how to achieve lasting peace of mind.”
He further stated that Tibetans have tremendous respect for India as the source of their spiritual culture. “I would like to take this opportunity to express the Tibetan people’s immense gratitude to the Government and people of India. It is due to India’s consistent generosity and kindness to us that we have been able to preserve our ancient cultural heritage in exile.”
In Dharamshala, about 300 Tibetans voted in the elections, after getting their voting rights in 2014, according to a Times of India report.
Unofficially there are about 60,000 Tibetans living in India today, as compared to about 95,000 ten years ago.
Modi and Amit Shah, President of the BJP, duo-steered the BJP to more seats than they had in 2014 when they secured 282 seats. At that time it was considered a historic win. The 2019 win on 303 seats put Modi in even stronger position, should he decides to bring changes and reforms.
India’s Grand Old Party, the Indian National Congress managed to secure only 52 seats. The Congress scored a nil in 18 states and union territories in the 2019 elections. Party leader Rahul Gandhi was defeated from his familial bastion of Amethi constituency by the BJP rival Smriti Irani. However, he won from his second constituency Wayanad in Kerala.
Is it possible these words of congratulation may ring a little hollow in PM Modi’s ears after the Dalai Lama’s remarks to NDTV commentator Sonia Singh and the Dalai Lama Office’s initial response to decline to make a correction or denial? To some outsiders this leaves an impression of playing politics rather than the usual very careful expression of opinion we are used to from Dharamsala. The election result seems to have exposed this miscalculation and produced a rush to smooth things over.