Mumbai, April 23: The BJP has complained to the poll panel against the principal of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, accusing him of trying to influence young voters by critiquing the Gujarat model of development and advising them to “choose well”.
In an email to students that has also been posted on the college website, Fr Frazer Mascarenhas tries to draw students into a debate over the “Gujarat model” ahead of tomorrow’s polling and questions whether supporting a model of high production was the right path to take.
“The Gujarat model has been highlighted for our consideration…. Is the growth of big business, the making of huge profits, the achievement of high production — what we seek?
“Or is it the quality of life for the majority in terms of affordable basic goods and services and the freedom to take forward the cultural aspirations of our plural social groups that make up India?
“Gujarat may be doing well in the first sense, although not as good as some other states in the country,” the email says.
Fr Mascarenhas then points out that all the human development index indicators and the cultural polarisation of the population show that “Gujarat has had a terrible experience in the last 10 years”.
Picking education as an example, he says schools for ordinary people show “abject neglect” and a very high dropout rate in the last 10 years. Higher education, too, had not been allowed to move forward.
Citing the example of St Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad, he points out that in the last 10 years, the institution had not been able to get the state’s nod for academic autonomy. But it had finally won a battle in the high court to approach the UGC directly for the status.
“As opposed to this, efforts like the Rojgar Yojana and the Food Security Act have been called ‘election sops’. However… Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze have supported these as necessary….”
Fr Mascarenhas then asks the students what lessons a reflection on the elections throws up. “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.
“Support for people… who commit themselves to a pluralistic culture in diverse India --- this is the hope for the future.
“No magic wand or divine miracles will come to the aid of the Indian people. Their reasoned choice of individuals and political parties who promise to work for a real quality of life for all will see India prosper or flounder on the precipice. Choose well!”
BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari termed the appeal “unethical and illegal”. “Father Mascarenhas has crossed all the limits of his post as the head of an educational institution. His appeal is clearly political since it criticises the Gujarat model and praises the UPA schemes.”
The principal said: “The Election Commission has asked all school and college principals to encourage students to vote… I have simply given them certain criteria that they should consider before they make their choice.”
He said he had mentioned the Gujarat model as it had been at the core of the “development debate” during the election campaign.
Fr Mascarenhas is known for his forthright views. He had posted a notice on the college website in October 2010 ruing the Shiv Sena campaign against Rohinton Mistry’s book Such a Long Journey, days after Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya led an agitation to get Mumbai University to drop it from the BA second-year syllabus.
Aaditya had objected to the language used in the book to criticise the Sena.