From an ex-Left MLA, now with the BJP, who says Modi could lead us to the ‘kingdom of god’.
As a citizen of India, Frazer Mascarenhas had the freedom to get on top of the tallest building in Mumbai and shout whatever he wanted. But the moment he became a Catholic priest, he surrendered part of that freedom. The Catholic church doesn’t allow politicking by clergy. He also surrendered that freedom when he became a university teacher. Section 414 of the Maharashtra Universities Act prohibits teachers from using their posts for political purposes. When he became principal of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, his freedom was further curbed. The collective responsibility of representing the Christian community, the Catholic church and the teacher community rested upon his shoulders. Mascarenhas failed on all counts.
I do not fully agree with the church diktat to its clergy to keep off politics, since Christians everywhere say in the lord’s prayer every day, “Thy kingdom come”. That kingdom can come only when there is justice and fairness. It can be accomplished only through good governance. It can never be accomplished when there is looting and corruption. Therefore a good Christian, even a Catholic priest, is duty bound to ensure that good governance is in place, which will ensure justice. Let me call this “Christian politics”. Therefore I would not have found Mascarenhas wanting at all in his Christian calling if he had exhorted his students to elect representatives who would ensure good governance.
The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, Cardinal Cleemis, issued a pastoral letter to be read out in all the Catholic churches in India on April 6: “Let us pray that those who work hard to uphold values and principles in public life, those who uphold the great democratic and secular traditions of this country, and those who can ensure peace and prosperity to all its citizens get elected.” He hit the nail on the head. Not just Christians, but any sensible citizen could have used this to evaluate candidates at the ballot box.
But Mascarenhas failed to understand Cardinal Cleemis. He claims that he is not taking sides, that he is only provoking intelligent debate. But his opening remarks give him away: Gujarat’s “terrible experience in the last 10 years”. Though he doesn’t name any political party, his message is clear: Narendra Modi is dangerous, vote for the Congress. I don’t know the provocation for him to write so, especially from his official email address.
Mascarenhas seems to have got both the message of Christian politics as well as the basic facts about Gujarat wrong. First, about the basic message of Christ. The message of Christ is in his life: courage and compassion. If this is Christ and Christianity, haven’t you gone completely wrong in evaluating Modi? Hasn’t he shown remarkable courage in his administration to ensure that there was no corruption for the past 10 years? Has he not shown the kind of compassion to the downtrodden that is almost biblical, when he ensured that their livelihood sustenance grew at a phenomenal rate? How do I know that these claims are true?
I have travelled extensively in Gujarat during the past five years and I have evaluated for myself what is happening there. I had no reason to be soft on Modi or the BJP. I was shocked to discover that the Gujarat model was about courage and compassion and not “cultural polarisation”. If all households get quality electricity, who is the beneficiary? If agriculture, which is the lifeline of the majority of Indians, grows at 9.8 per cent a year for the past 10 years, who is the beneficiary? If industry grows at a phenomenal rate, who gets employed? If there has not been one communal riot during the past 12 years, who has been the beneficiary? If Gujarat has the best road network in the country, is not the ordinary citizen the beneficiary? Father Mascarenhas, please go and see the courage with which Modi has taken on communal forces during the past 12 years. Did you see Pravin Togadia or any Bajrang Dal functionary calling the shots in Gujarat during the past 10 years? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
You, as a Christian preacher, should believe only in the real. You must see the writing on the ground. You must throw a stone only when you are convinced that a sin has been committed. Christianity is all about forgiveness. The Supreme Court and every court of the land is convinced that Modi is not a sinner. Still Mascarenhas, who hears confessions, and the main plank of whose religion is forgiveness, irresponsibly slams Modi on the eve of elections, calling Gujarat a “terrible experience”.
Let me tell you the experience of a Catholic bishop who went to see Modi. Since he didn’t know Modi, he took a BJP functionary along with him. Modi’s first comment was: “Bishop, you don’t need anybody’s recommendation to see me. In the future, just call me directly. Now what can I do for you?” The bishop said: “Here are requests for three schools; if you could kindly consider one of them I will be very grateful.” In half a minute, Modi approved not one but all three schools. I have never seen Christians in Gujarat complaining. They are happy in Gujarat. They never felt more secure. They don’t even want to go back to Kerala.
I am a practising Catholic. I joined the BJP three years back, as I wanted Modi to be prime minister. Why? He will bring food to every table, send every child to school and create jobs for our young people. For lots of people, that is the kingdom of god.
The writer, a former IAS officer, is a member of the BJP’s national executive