In a move which would be termed “communal” if undertaken by Hindus, Goa AAP leader Dr Oscar Rebello has demanded that the Goan Church should come forth and “groom” candidates in future elections, and throw its “weight behind him/her.”
In an article written in a local publication, Rebello argues that though the Church may not be an active political organisation, it is well known that it indulges in politics, at the time of elections. “Local priests in their parish openly canvass for their chosen ones and the Church as an organ, gives a nudge nudge wink wink to their preferred political party in their 5 yearly sermons from the Altinho mount,” he writes. He feels there is “nothing wrong” with this since it is the Church’s “inalienable constitutional right.”
This sudden plea comes in the backdrop of a few weeks where the Goan Church has been pummelled on social media. The saga began when Goa TCP Minister Vijai Sardesai who belongs to the Goa Forward Party, proposed some controversial land usage plans. Sardesai is an ex-Congressman and was once the blue-eyed boy of the Church. The plans were opposed by Church backed NGOs who took to the streets levelling allegations of corruption against Sardesai and other politicians across party lines.
The politicians, in turn, denied allegations and threatened to sue the NGOs. Simultaneously videos exposing the Church’s allegedly shady land dealings surfaced on social media. The videos showed how the Church itself had allegedly asked for various Orchard lands to be converted into settlement etc. With this, the image of the Church took a massive beating.
Rebello in his article touches on this issue as well, but gives a clean chit to the Church and instead tries to blame individual rogue elements in the church. “Of course there are conmen in the clergy who have popped off land belonging to the Church for 30 pieces of silver. Please identify, prosecute and jail them. But to damn the entire Church and pour vitriol by unfounded charges on the top most hierarchy of the Church is so pathetic that it doesn’t even merit a response” he writes.
Rebello’s call for the Church to become a quasi-political party is highly problematic. Firstly it exposes the AAP’s innate communal mindset, where it is ready for overtly religious bodies meddling with politics when it suits them, but gets cold feet when other religions follow suit.
Secondly, this move would be patently in violation of clear-cut guidelines by the Supreme Court. In January last year, the Court had stated that seeking votes in the name of religion amounted to a corrupt practice.
Thirdly, as per Rebello’s own claims, the Church has always been active in politics, using their sermons to canvass for favourite politicians. We had also reported how priests were caught on camera during the recent Goa Elections, campaigning for Congress MLAs. Thus, if now it is an accepted fact that the Church has been covertly influencing Goan elections, has the Church already violated the Supreme Court judgement? Should this warrant an investigation into the Church’s activities?
Finally, besides the above, it may also raise various ethical questions: The Church is the largest landowner in Goa. It also has a religious role to play. Can it be ruled out that the Church will (or already has) used its religious clout to elect friendly politicians who can then enable the Church to profit from the sale of the land it usurped from Goans during the Inquisition?
AAP Goa and AAP nationally should clarify whether they back their Goan leaders call for religious bodies to openly manipulate political sentiments.