Mumbai, Apr 23 IBNS | 7 months ago

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has complained to the Election Commission (EC) against the principal of St Xavier's College in Mumbai, who sent an email to students criticised Narendra Modi's Gujarat model of governance and advised them to "choose well!"

Principal Frazer Mascarenhas in his mail said,"Gujarat may be doing well in the first sense, although not as good as some other States in the country. But all the Human Development Index indicators and the cultural polarization of the population show that Gujarat has had a terrible experience in the last 10 years."

"Gujarat has also been the worst performer in settling claims and distributing title deeds to tribal people and other forest dwellers, as shown by the latest data put out by the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry. Till 2013, the State, with 15 per cent tribal population, settled only 32 per cent of the claims, the lowest rate in the country," his mail stated.

"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," it said.

The principal has therefore, urged his students to choose well in the election.

"Support for people who pledge to work to take Human Development Indicators higher and 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!," he said.

However, in his defence, Mascarenhas told CNN-IBN channel that the Gujarat model had been a dominant theme of discussion this election and that it was necessary to give an academic perspective.

"The Election Commission had asked all college principals to encourage their students to vote. In the process, I had also sent out an academic perspective. I don't see any problem in this as I am professor of development anthropology," he said.

Meanwhile, his mail drew several reactions from different sections of society.

Writer Chetan Bhagat tweeted: "When was the last time people listened to their college principal? I think his sly tactics just made sure Xavier's will block vote Modi."

"I think people have the right to give their political views, even the Xavier's principal. However, students can think for themselves," he said in a series of tweeted.

"If the principal used college resources or position to reach students, it is between him and the trustees if that's the principal they want," he said.

Supporting the principal, Congress candidate from South Mumbai Milind Deora tweeted: "Leaders, college principals, or otherwise, voicing their opinion is free speech. Baseless allegations against them is defamation."

Mumbai will vote on Thursday, in the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha polls.

(Posted on 23-04-2014)

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