The BJP Wednesday filed a complaint with the Election Commission (EC) against St. Xavier’s College principal Father Frazer Mascarenhas for openly criticising the “Gujarat model of development” and indirectly targeting its prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat CM Narendra Modi.
Mascarenhas had uploaded his article “In the Background of Elections — The Development Debate” on the college’s website and emailed it to all his students.
In its letter to EC, the BJP cited news reports and said the “article was sent from the official email ID of Fr. Frazer Mascarenhas and is also available on the official website http://www.st.xaviars’edu.”
“The institute is government funded… This activity in his capacity as principal is an attempt to influence the voters and is a clear violation of the model code of conduct,” the BJP’s complaint says.
Mascarenhas letter asks students to “choose well” in the election and says that “all the human development index indicators and the cultural polarisation of the population show Gujarat has had a terrible experience in the last 10 years”.
The letter, sent to around 3,000 students, asked them not to support leaders who pose a threat to the future of secular democracy. It states “The prospect of an alliance of corporate capital and communal forces coming to power constitutes a real threat to the future of our secular democracy.”
Asked why he chose to send out this letter, Mascarenhas said, “The Gujarat model is being touted and is being talked about by media and is discussed in public forums. I just gave my students a few considerations based on that. As a teacher of development studies, it is my responsibility to show them the clear picture. Nowhere in the article have I named any political leader or party. After reading and understanding these considerations, they will be able to make their own choice on April 24.”
RTI activist and former chief information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi backed Mascarenhas, who had mentioned Gandhi’s name in his letter. “The country is grateful that committed activists like Aruna Roy and Shailesh Gandhi have worked with the government to initiate and sustain the Right to Information Act, which makes accountability possible,” the letter by Mascarenhas says.
However, Gandhi said, “I read in newspapers about Father Frazer writing an article on St Xavier’s College’s website taking a critical position on Gujarat’s development claims and also praising some schemes of the present government. My first reaction was that this is an inappropriate move by a college principal. However, after thinking about it further, I do not see any principle being violated by Father Frazer. As a concerned Indian citizen, it is everyone’s moral right and duty to be concerned with governance and elections. It would be good to expose students to various thoughts and also the political discourse in a reasoned manner.”
Bombay Catholic Sabha also backed Mascarenhas through a press statement that hailed the college and the principal.