Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mother of all ballots (180 mil, 117 seats, 04/24)

Tomorrow is a most  crucial day for the republic.
If you are one of the 180 million voters who plan to exercise their responsibilities as citizens, please pay attention to this last minute message (see below) from a (Christian) Father (Fraser Mascarenhas, Principal, St Xaviers College, Mumbai) to his (mostly Hindu) students.

An interesting point that needs highlighting, is the difference between Muslims and Christians in their attitude to Modi. Amongst the activists and intellectuals (Mascarenhas included) there is of course complete unanimity, an united wall against the Great Satan. 

However at the community level there are stark differences. The upper-caste Kerala Christians (Syrians) are publicly backing Modi (votes not so much), so are a large section of Goan Christians (votes will make a difference). There is no (apparent) solidarity with tribal, dalit Christians who may face an onslaught from Hindutva forces post elections. 

In contrast, the only muslims who will be freely voting for Modi are the Bohras of Gujarat/Maharashtra and the Shias in Uttar Pradesh. The Bohras are businessmen and are voting based on caste interests (as opposed to the interests of the Ummah), while Shias will vote due to their grievances against Sunnis (there is no Ummah).  

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday lampooned St Xavier's College principal, Frazer Mascarenhas, for writing a message to his students criticizing the Gujarat development model and praising the flagship schemes of Congress-led UPA government.

Mascarenhas has apparently written a message to his student saying, "All the Human Development Index indicators and the cultural polarization of the population show that Gujarat has had a terrible experience in the last ten years."

"As opposed to this, efforts like the Rojgar Yojana and the Food Security Act have been called "election sops". However, some of our best social scientists like Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze have supported these as necessary in the emergency economic situation the country and the world is facing." . "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. Corruption still needs to be addressed effectively, but since it is so prevalent at every level of society, it will take civil society long agonizing efforts to root it out," he further stated.

Lashing out at the principal of St Xavier's College Mumbai for his controversial advisory to students which is critical of Narendra Modi's 'Gujarat Model' of development, BJP on Wednesday complained to the Election Commission.

Demanding an 'immediate withdrawal of the statement' issued by Father Frazer Mascarenhas, BJP alleged that the principal's email to students is a violation of model code of conduct.

In its letter to the Election Commission, BJP wrote, "Xaviers is a go ..

A letter addressed to students by Father Frazer Mascarenhas, principal of St Xavier's College, criticising the Gujarat model of development triggered a storm with strong reactions coming in from across the spectrum. The BJP filed a complaint on Wednesday with the Election Commission against him saying that the letter which was published on the college website violated the model code of conduct because the college is government-aided.

In his letter which does not directly name any individual or political party, Father Mascarenhas’ urged students to “choose well” and exercise a “reasoned choice of individuals and political parties who promise to work for a real quality of life”. The letter speaks about the poor human development indicators in Gujarat, including education and rights of the tribals. “So what lessons does a reflection on the approaching elections teach us? 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,” his letter read.

Prominent alumni from St Xavier's college also joined the debate. Theatre personality Alyque Padamse said: "This is a democracy. People have a right to air their views." Former Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee, while saying that Mascarenhas had not misused his position as principal, he should have refrained from making a public statement. "St Xavier's College has been an institution which has been aplolitical. It shouldn't dabble in politics.

At St Xavier's College, many students supported their principal. TYBA student Rujuta Sabnis said that there was nothing wrong in what he had done. “It's good that he's making sure we're getting the right information. Anyway, everything he has said is true,” she said.

However, some others were not impressed. “While I love Father Mascarenhas mostly and what he teaches us, I feel this is a way to influence students by using his authority. I am not a first-time voter but there are many in my college who are. The letter does not make a difference to me as I have already made up my mind but it could influence many others,” said an MSc student who did not want her identity to be disclosed.

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