Christians in India are regarding the surprise election defeat of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as an answer to their prayers.
The worldís largest democracy has been stunned by the size of the upset poll win by Gandhiís Congress over prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
The party that led India to freedom from British colonial rule and then ran the country for 40 years is returning to power after an eight-year hiatus, riding a surge of discontent among poor voters who felt left behind by the economic reforms.
Written off by opinion polls just three weeks ago, Congress fared far better than expected and will be the largest party in the new 545-seat parliament.
Hindus account for about 81 per cent of India's one billion inhabitants. 12 per cent are Muslims, 2.3 per cent Christians and less than 2 per cent Sikhs. Since the BJP came to power in 1998 attacks by Hindu extremists on Christians and other religious minorities have increased.
Joseph D'Souza, President of the All India Christian Council, told the German evangelical news agency Idea, the election result was totally unexpected. At a conference in Hyderabad in March the council had declared to more than one thousand Christian leaders that this was going to be "a make or break election".
According to D'Souza the Hindu Party had taken control of the education system, rewriting textbooks and gaining full control of universities. The BJP election manifesto declared that they would bring about a national anti-conversion law.
D'Souza said; "In a surprise spontaneous move of public anger, the masses, the downtrodden, the poor, the Dalits and even the urban unemployed all joined together to throw out the BJP led alliance."
In Tamil Nadu, where an anti-conversion law was introduced, a BJP ally did not win a single seat. In Andhra Pradesh the local party, a BJP ally, was ousted.
In the North Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar the BJP alliance suffered big setbacks owing to the consolidation of backward caste, Dalit (Untouchables) and minority votes. To the great surprise of many Christians the Indian Left, who supported the Christian Council in the fight for religious freedom, won landslide victories.
D'Souza says he is looking forward to a Congress led alliance of secular democratic forces committed to the constitution. The Indian constitution guarantees full rights for all citizens irrespective of religion, birth or caste. If Sonia Gandhi becomes Prime Minister it will be a major triumph for the Indian constitution, according to D'Souza.
Sonia Gandhi, Indiaís Italian-born election victor, has promised strong government. She told reporters she would seek to form a "strong, stable and secular" government. However she has so far refused to be drawn on whether she will become prime minister. She is still considered a political novice after replacing her husband, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, as Congress chief seven years after his 1991 assassination.