There is a lot of action these days in Goa, sometimes or rather most of the times needless. However, when it is so, it’s an indicator that polls are round the corner. Goa has sprung into brisk action like any other State on the brink of a poll.
The early signs of these were seen in the villages of Goa, in January this year when Haldi-Kumkum celebrations that mark Makar Sankranti in Goa became grand affairs. The hopeful candidates and supporters of candidates distributed some goods and sweetness to their fellow Goan women. And off-course we know, why!
Today, Goa is a boiling pot abuzz with press conferences and demonstrations, agitations and effigy burning, letters being written to Officials and sparing over social media, front page editorials and rallies, membership drives and volunteerism – all pointing in one direction i.e. the poll finger of the common men that presses the button on the electronic voting machines.
So, what is the direction of the wind?
With less than a year to go for the elections, it looks like ‘Advantage BJP’ for the moment. This comes as a surprise considering the not-so-recent and recent developments in the socio-political scenario of Goa. However, on considering the common Goan’s vision; limited to his own personal benefit and his convenient ignorance of the matters of importance to a state at large, this is not a surprise.
The following important and not so favourable events have marked the 4 year BJP led coalition rule in Goa:
• The hot & cold relation of the alliance partners MGP and BJP which reached a low with Deepak Dhavalikar of MGP losing the Ministry of Co-operation.
• The RSS faction, through Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM), vehemently speaking against the Government on the issue of MOI and the grants being given to English medium primary schools in Goa.
• The announcement of ‘Goa Forward’ as a new regional party, with the independent MLAs Vijay Sardesai, Rohan Khaunte, Naresh Sawal coming together. The party is losing no opportunity to question the incumbent government on most issues except mining.
• The expulsion of Babush Monserrate, the MLA from St. Cruz from Congress and his assuming the leadership role at UGDP thus reviving the almost forgotten important regional party of Goa.
• Babush Monserrate panel winning the Municipal Elections of Panaji against BJP
• The ground level activism by Aam Aadmi Party volunteers in Goa to create a viable political alternative to BJP, Congress & other regional parties
• The mysterious death of a fire-brand environment activist Fr. Bismarque Dias, which the State Govt and a section of the media was proactive in announcing as a natural death and another section of the media and activists hell-bent to prove as a killing.
• The ban of mining in Goa leading to a financial crunch and the helplessness of the BJP govt. in restarting the mining operations in Goa.
• Government borrowing a lot of money, to the tune of Rs. 5000 Crores to fund its social welfare schemes and other development plans to keep up the poll promises.
• The tacit support of the Government to the mining lobby in restarting the mining operations, renewal of mining leases and tax exemptions to the industry, opposed vehemently by NGOs like Goa Foundation
• The Government going ahead with Mopa as the site for new Airport against the public opinion in South of Goa, who would have liked the Airport to continue at Dabolim or be closer to the South of Goa.
• The Governments support to the Tiracol Golf Course project and a decision to build a bridge which many activists and opposition have highlighted as an expenditure done that will largely benefit the Leading Hotels operations and not Goan people.
• The Governments support to SUMUL’s entry into the Milk market of Goa thus threatening the existence of Goa Dairy Cooperative, a decision which has been seen by many as the Govt.s and BJPs vindictive stand after failing to wrest control of Goa Dairy Operations.
• The upgradation of the ex-CM Manohar Parrikar as the country’s Defence Minister, with the reigns being given in the hands of a not equally charismatic and all acceptable leader in Laxmikant Parsekar.
• Several decisions taken by the Cabinet which appear to be shocking on the surface such as Coconut tree losing tree status in Goa, thus allowing the cutting of the palm tree without a permission from the Forest Department.
• The possibility of peacocks, bison, wild boars and some species of monkeys to be classified as vermin, thus allowing easy killing of the animals that are a nuisance to farmers.
• The media and oppositions labelling the BJP led Govt as a Govt of U-Turns, with Manohar Parrikar, the charismatic leader being projected as a failure in delivering to Goa what he had promised.
Going by the above list of adversaries, one would assume that BJP is on the backfoot in Goa. However, things are not so on the ground.
• BJP, MJP & alliance MLAs have maintained good relations and contacts with their loyal vote bank and ensured that they are not perturbed especially through the religious, caste and economic angle.
• The common man in Goa is highly ignorant and least bothered about the state of State Finances and still happy enjoying the sub Rs. 60 petrol prices in Goa and has nothing to do with the loans and borrowings of the government.
• The common Goan is still divided in tiny little fragments of religion – Hindus and Catholics, of caste – Bamons and Bhandaris, of language – English, Marathi & Konkani – within that Devanagari Konkani & Romi Konkani, of region – North Goa & South Goa, of place – City & village, of knowledge – educated & uneducated, of gender – men & women and so on. So thus finding a common opposition or mission for all Goans that will change the political future of Goa looks unlikely.
• The doles of welfare schemes like the Laadli Laxmi – Rs. 1 Lakh for the marriage of a girl child or to do business, the Mamata Scheme – Rs. 25,000 in case of birth of Girl child, Griha Aadhar – Rs.1200 per month for housewives to run their home, the Dayanand Social Security Scheme for Senior Citizens – Rs.2000 per month and the others have comforted the common man and ensured that the government is perceived as delivering to their immediate needs and concerns.
• The opposition is fragmented and weak. Congress has been decimated in 2012 elections and has not recovered since then. ‘Goa Forward’ is still an infant and people have concerns about its affiliations and intentions. AAP is a new party with a good intent and clarity about what it’s not going to do but people would like to know what it is going to do for Goans. Plus AAP lacks a state level strong leader of the calibre of Arvind Kejriwal in Goa. MGP is popular and limited only to a geographical area & community.
• All the opposition parties on their own and going by the mood of the people of Goa could best get 4-5 seats each thus still making it 20 and leaving another 20 seats for BJP to win.
• Congress has also for the time being rejected the offer by Goa Forward to form an alliance to defeat BJP.
• BJPs alliance partner MGP is still undecided about its support to BJP in the 2017 elections. It is still testing waters and gauging BJPs reaction by asking some of its party members to make statements to the effect that MGP should not align with BJP for 2017 elections. However, by keeping their options open they might once again align with BJP.
• There is a strong BJP Government at the Centre and with Manohar Parrikar to guide and step-in as and when required, people might choose BJP over Congress again!
• The exodus of intelligent & opportunistic Goans to National cosmopolitan cities, Gulf and Europe has ensured that the government has to deal and can deal with the small minority of thinking Goans.
But the real questions for Goa to ask are the following:
• If BJP loses in Goa, who and what will come to power? Will it be something better than the current Government? Can Goa be sure of that?
• Do Goans really want something better? If yes, are they willing to work for it?
Only time will tell!
By: Dattaprasad Shetkar
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org Blog – notesfromgoa.blogspot.com