SOLD OUT: The ‘Unlucky’ Seven which is grounded on the Miramar beach causing sea erosion is witness to Parrikar selling the Mandovi River to the casino lobby. (All pics courtesy Stephen Dias)
If the Congress or the combined Opposition finds a proper candidate who enjoys the confidence of the voters of Panjim, even Manohar Parrikar can be defeated in the bye-election to be held on August 23. If Uday Bhembre could defeat the invincible Babu Naik in Margao there is no reason why Parrikar cannot be denied a seat
By Rajan Narayan
THE fact that Babush Monserrate has reneged on his promise of contesting the bye-election to the Panjim Assembly Constituency on the Congress ticket is not the end of the road. On the contrary the Congress now has a better chance of defeating Manohar Parrikar in the bye elections to be held on August 23rd 2017. Even if the Congress just cashes upon the wide spread discontent over the scheduling of the election two days before Chaturthi it should be able to teach Manohar Parrikar a lesson. No leader, whatever may be his past reputation, is invulnerable.
There was a time when Anant Narsimha Naik, more popularly known as ‘Babu’ Naik was the boss of Margao. He had an even stronger and bigger reputation than Parrikar has now. Babu Naik who was the Industries minister in the Parrikar government had never lost an election. When the Congress won the General Elections for the first time in 1981, defeating the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), Babu Naik was tipped to be the chief minister. It was because of the fight between Dr Wilfred D’Souza, then President of the Goa Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) and Babu Naik, that Pratap Singh Rane who had defected from the MGP became the compromise chief minister.
Everyone in Margao and South Goa was disgusted with the performance of Babu Naik. All voters and residents of Margao were disgusted with his arrogance. It is also believed that Babu Naik was very corrupt. To the extent that even the Saraswats of Margao who normally never go against another Saraswat revolted against him. A group of prominent Saraswats led by the Commonwealth Developers owner and social activist Datta Naik decided to field Udhay Bhembre, the Konkani writer and advocate who also happen to be a Saraswat, against Babu Naik. In the 1984 election, to the surprise of all Margaokars and the shock of Babu Naik, Udhay Bhembre won the election.
Similarly, Manohar Parrikar, who has been asked to quit and go home and spend some time with his children and grand children by his old friend Rajan Parrikar, can also be defeated. This is because the people of Panjim, if not the people of Goa, are tired of his U turns. The people of Panjim are tired of Parrikar’s big talk which does not result in any results on the ground. Parrikar has lost the faith of not only the minority Catholic community, who repeatedly returned him to power for six terms, but even his fellow Saraswats are disillusioned with him. There will be no amche factor in the bye-elections to be held on August 23, 2017. The waning of Parrikar’s influence was dramatised during the bye-elections when the AAP candidate Valmiki Naik, another Saraswat, got almost 2,000 votes. It was because Valmiki split the Saraswat vote that Sidharth Kuncalienker was able to defeat Babush by a margin of only a little more than 1,000 votes. If it had been a straight contest between Sidharth and Babush, the Taleigao boss would have lost by a bigger margin.
Indeed, it is fortunate for the Congress that Babush has joined the Goa Forward and will not be contesting the elections for the Panjim Assembly seat on August 23. The voters of Panjim given a choice between Babush and Parrikar may have decided that it is better to elect a relatively honest Parrikar, to a goon like Babush. The people of Panjim have not forgotten that Babush and his goons had the guts to attack the Panjim police station and even beat up women police outside the station. Public memory is not so short that the people of Panjim have forgotten the charge of rape and abetting suicide against Babush. Or the charge of rape of a German minor girl by Babush’s son.
It would have made no sense to replace a dictator with a goonda. The Congress could still win the Panjim Assembly seat if it put up an honest clean Saraswat candidate against Manohar Parrikar. Surendra Desai, not to be confused with Surendra Furtado, would have been the good choice to take on Manohar Parrikar. Unfortunately he turned down the offer. People believe he has been either threatened or bribed not to stand against Manohar Parrikar.
There is no point wasting the Congress ticket on Surendra Furtado who has lost four times to Manohar Parrikar. The people of Panjim are equally disgusted with Furtado for the potholes on the road and the failure of the CCP to find a garbage dump even ten years after he became mayor. Furtado has only survived because the votes and seats were split between the BJP and the Congress. So much so, that Furtado has alternated between taken the support of Parrikar and Babush to remain the mayor of Panjim.
Ideally the candidate chosen by the Congress would be a resident of Panjim, but it is more important to have someone
incorruptible, who has a track record of service to people, and who has shown the ability to move beyond focusing on his or her own home town. Parrikar was a bhailo who remained focused on Mapusa. Parrikar is from Mapusa and until he bought a bungalow in Dona Paula two years ago, every night when he was chief minister or the leader of the opposition, he always went back to his ancestral house in Mapusa. Parrikar has never been resident of Panjim. Since anyone contesting from Panjim has to show that he is a resident of the constituency, Parrikar has shown the address of a close friend of his in Mala as his address for the purposes of filing his nomination for the bye-elections to the Panjim Assembly seats. But his Aadhaar card, his Pan card and his ration card are registered in Mapusa, not in Panjim, and he has shown that he will put Mapusa first.
MANOHAR Parrikar was responsible for the collapse of the Curca garbage dump which used to be home for the dry and wet waste collected in Panjim. He killed Curca by overloading it with garbage from his home town Mapusa. Though Parrikar has represented Panjim for over 25 years he has not been able to either find the garbage dump or set up a waste treatment plant in Panjim or for Panjim. The only time Panjim had a garbage dump was when Babush offered them space in the Taleigao constituency to temporarily dump garbage. Though Baigani in Ribandar was acquired by the government for a garbage dump and a waste treatment plant, Parrikar succumbed to pressure from the builders’ lobby and has not been willing to set up the waste management plant in Ribandar or the Kadamba plateau. What is the point of boasting of setting up a world class waste management plant in Saligao if as chief minister you cannot set up even a garbage dump for Panjim? Parrikar will be remembered by the people of Panjim as the man who converted the Campal Parade ground into a garbage dump.
IFFI DOWN THE DRAIN
ALL of the problems of Panjim began with Parrikar’s obsessions to host the International Film Festival. To create the infra-structure for IFFI Parrikar destroyed the only stadium in Panjim, mainly the Bandodkar Stadium, which was the home of football in Goa. Parrikar destroyed the Portuguese designed underground drainage system in the name of the beautification of Panjim for IFFI. Parrikar has spent several crores of rupees on building a jetty at Kala Academy for the benefit of IFFI delegates which was never used. Parrikar spent over `25 crore to put up huge air-conditioned hangers to accommodate over 4000 people for the IFFI opening and closing ceremony. Even 14 years after Goa became the permanent venue for IFFI Parrikar has not been able to create infra-structure for the festival.
THE latest disgrace is the Dona Paula-Miramar road which despite an expenditure of over `100 crore on concreting it, is still in a shambles. Cracks have appeared even on the small stretch of road from Dona Paula circle to the Governor’s residence.
Panjim was the first town in Goa to start door to door collection of garbage. It was a first town to introduce segregation of garbage at source by distributing green and black bins for wet and dry garbage. It was the first town which encouraged housing colonies to set up composting units. It was all of no use as there was no place to dump the garbage. So much so, the entire Panjim from Dona Paula to the Campal ground and the KTC bus stand and Patto became a garbage dump. Even the small waste treatment plant in Patto stopped working long ago resulting in the most stinking business district in Goa or India.
Smart Parrikar wants Panjim to become a smart city. But this is another of the empty promises which Parrikar will never be able to implement. Parrikar can only come up with grand ideas. He is not capable of implementing them. Parrikar built an alternative bridge at Patto. He also is in the process of building a third bridge over the Mandovi River to add to the existing two bridges. There is no point in building additional bridges which will only bring more people to Panjim. The solution to the traffic jams and the parking problems in Panjim is not to build bridges or multi-storey car parks but to decongest the city.
At least IFFI happens only for eight days every year in the last week of November. The casinos in the Mandovi Rivers are there for the last several years. They work 24×7. The presence of these offshore casinos in the River Mandovi creates traffic congestion not only in the Mandovi but on the roads leading to the boarding points. Every day at full capacity they can attract 5,000 to 10,000 gamblers, both local and tourists, every day. Almost all of them travel to the captain of port jetty and the casino jetty in their expensive SUVs. Every casino has at least a hundred SUVs on contract to transport gamblers from their hotels to the ships. There is a traffic jam every night opposite the Mandovi Hotel which is the entry point for Casino Pride. Similarly there is an even bigger traffic jam near the petrol station of the Panjim residency which is the entry point for the offshore casinos of Jaydev Mody.
Parrikar has been talking about moving government offices out of Panjim city to reduce the pressure on traffic and parking. The secretariat has moved out of Panjim to Porvorim. But it makes no sense to transfer the office of the collector and the RTO to Porvorim. This is because these officers are meant for the benefit of the local people of Panjim. While on the one hand Parrikar talks of de-congesting Panjim, his smart plan shows that he wants to built multi-storey buildings in the place of the present CCP. The problem of Panjim began with the increase in the floor area ratio which determines the number of floors that the builder can put up. Unlike in 2000 when Parrikar first became the chief minister when there were only two story buildings, now there are hundreds of multi-storey buildings. An example is Club Vasco in the Municipal Garden Square which turned from a two storey building to a six storey building. Even the buildings on 18th June road have grown much taller with re-development.
Panjim does not have the infrastructure for high rise buildings. More floors means more offices and flats. Correspondingly,
the population not only of people, but also of cars, goes up. Only parts of Panjim have an underground sewage system. Many parts of the sewage pipeline have not been maintained resulting in the leakage of dirty water into the drinking water. Panjim does not get enough water to meet the needs of its growing residents. Most shopkeepers who spend lakhs, if not crores on interiors, do not build toilets. Indeed none of the shops on 18th June road have toilets. They have to rely on the common toilets provided by the builder.
Parrikar has done nothing for Panjim city. The condition of Panjim has worsened during Parrikar’s six terms as a member of the Legislative Assembly and three terms as chief minister. Parrikar has been unable to fulfil any promises. He only knows how to break structures, not how to built a sustainable city.
We need someone who loves Panjim. Whose heart beats for Panjim. We need a genuine Goenkar. Fortunately for Ponjikars, the vice president of the AICC, Rahul Gandhi, has given the challenge of taking on Manohar Parrikar to Girish Chodankar, secretary of the AICC, who is known to be an upright, intrepid fighter who cannot be bribed or bullied into withdrawing.