The Catholic Church in Goa has caught itself in a political controversy. A magazine of the Goa Church had appealed to Christian voters of Panji to defeat Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar who contested the Vidhan Sabha by-poll from Panji and won the election with 4803 votes. The result of this election was announced on Monday.
The magazine likened the NDA rule to that of Nazis in Germany and called for BJP’s defeat. An article published in the magazine said that the biggest issue in India today was freedom and not secularism or corruption. It implored the Christian voters to vote against the BJP candidate who agreed with fascism.
The article in question was written by a Panji-based lawyer F E Norohna aqnd published in the pastoral periodical of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman – Renewal Novsornni Renovocao. The Catholics have over 25 percent population share in Goa and were in a position to impact the election in Panji from where Parrikar contested the August 23 by-election to the state assembly.
The Church in Goa performs the role of religious and spiritual guide of the Catholics in the State. It is therefore, quite natural that they adhere to the Church appeal. And such an article from the authentic Church magazine was most likely to influence their voting pattern.
The article by F E Noronha said: “Increasingly everyday what we are witnessing in India, is nothing but a constitutional holocaust. Corruption is very bad, communalism is worse, but Nazism is worse than both,” urging Goa voters to vote against communal forces to halt the march of “nationwide fascism”.
The article took several potshots at the chief minister without naming him, and implored voters not to vote for people who “show no sign of distinct backbone or character and evidently agree with the nationwide fascism”.
The article also described the Panaji bypoll on August 23 as an opportunity to stem the downside of Indian democracy by voting against Parrikar, who in the past has been criticised by the opposition for U-turns in matters of policy.
“There are rare occasions – and August 23 is one — when the future of a state and of the whole nation depends on a single election,” said the article. “Freedom, democracy and secularism are more important than corruption. Corruption was better.”
Parrikar refused to comment on the piece. “I do not want to say anything. If someone studies history of Germany, you will realise contradiction.”
Parrikar returned to Goa as chief minister for a fourth term this March but has battled unpopularity after scrambling together a last-minute coalition to form the government. The BJP won just 13 of the state’s 40 seats, prompting many to say that the saffron party didn’t have the moral right to remain in government.
The article comes as the second instance of a new-found disliking of the church for the BJP. The first was a fact-finding report published soon after an accused was caught in a spate of desecration cases in the state.
The report said the BJP was trying to hoodwink the Christian community by the arrest of Francis Pereira, and asked for a judicial probe in the matter, accusing right-wing parties of vandalism.
Meanwhile, Legal Rights Observatory (LRO) a Guwahati-based NGO has decided to move the Election Commission against this fallacious and misleading propaganda indulged in by the Catholics and Church magazine in Goa.
In a Face Book post, the LRO said that they will approach the Election Commission against Goa Catholic Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao and Renovocao Magazine for publishing a report on paid news and making a religious appeal to the voters to vote for a particular party in the August 23 Panji by-election from where chief minister Manohar Parrikar was one of the candidates.
This is not the first instance the Church has done this. Long back during the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s era, the Church in Mizoram has not only appealed to the voters to vote for the Congress party but forced the party leadership to concede their demand to introduce a promise in their election manifesto to run the administration of Mizoram as per the tenets of the Bible.
Irony is such organizations and writers are hailed as seculars and democratic and progressive. But often this fact is ignored that these are the people who brazenly violate the guiding principles of our constitution.
However, the Goa voters deserve full credit for ignoring the appeal of the Church leaders and voting as per their conscious to ensure the development of Goa state.