The AAP in Goa has slammed the Diocesan Society of Education, a Church-linked organization that runs the highest number of schools in Goa, for "summoning" only Catholic MLAs across party lines to discuss education-related issues pending with the BJP-led coalition government.
"The AAP Goa expresses its disappointment with the decision of the church body Diocesan Society of Education to selectively invite only Catholic MLAs to air its grievances against the current government's educational bias against minority-run institutions in the state," AAP spokesperson Oscar Rebello said on Friday.
On Thursday, Fr. Zeferino D'Souza, secretary of society, one of the most influential educational collective in the state operating over 130 schools, had invited nine Catholic legislators from Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Goa Vikas Party, other Independents and two ministers, for a meeting which also specifically discussed the delay in granting of permissions to four higher secondary schools run by the Society.
While claiming that the Society had good relations with the current government, as well as other governments in the past, D'Souza said, the Catholic MLAs had been asked to request the chief minister to expedite "pending issues".
"The discussion would be held with chief minister (CM) regarding education and various measures to improve the education field. Some practical difficulties are encountered we want government to look into it. We want CM to resolve these issues," D'Souza said.
The influential Roman Catholic Church in Goa is a spiritual guide to nearly 26 per cent of the state's population which is Catholic and has crucial socio-political influence.
Over the years, the role of the Goa Church, especially around election time, has been critical. After winning the 2012 Lok Sabha elections, top BJP leaders claimed on record, that the role of the Church had been critical in swinging a significant section of the Catholic vote, which is traditionally a Congress votebank, towards the saffron party.
When asked to comment about the flak faced by the Church body for the summoning of Catholic MLAs, state Congress president Luizinho Faleiro told IANS: "Last time everybody were against Congress. They supported these MLAs, so they have every right to ask these MLAs whom they have supported (during elections)".
State Environment minister Alina Saldanha, one of the nine Catholic legislators, who attended the meeting on Thursday, however hinted that the DSE may have erred in summoning a Catholic-only delegation for a meeting which dealt with education-related issues.
"It has been decided by everybody that all MLAs will be called to the next meeting, because education is an issue which sees no communities. It is across communities," Saldanha said.