SHAMELESS: The Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar is now claiming that the ‘Unlucky Seven’ cannot be removed from Miramar beach because there is a big hole at the bottom which has to be patched up before it can be shifted. The hole in his reputation is even bigger! (Pic courtesy Stephen Dias)
Lucky Seven has been grounded on the Miramar beach for just a month. Bekar Parrikar has been grounded as MLA of Panjim for the last 23 years. It is time for both Lucky Seven and bekar Parrikar to be shifted from Panjim
By Rajan Narayan
On August 7, at 8:30 pm, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar met with a group of prominent Catholics at his official residence Mahalaxmi in Altinho, Panjim, in a gross violation of the model Code of Conduct that has been in-force since the dates for the bye-election were announced. Parrikar should be disqualified for misusing and abusing the office of the chief minister in violation of Election Commission guidelines. When there is an election for the Legislative Assembly, no member of the cabinet, including the chief minister, can use his official residence or office or vehicle for canvassing for votes. This time around the breach of the Code of Conduct by Manohar Parrikar is all the greater because he is not only the chief minister but also the candidate for the Panjim Assembly constituency in which the residence of the chief minister is located.
There are many eye witnesses to the election campaign meeting convened by the chief minister at his official residence. The prominent members of Catholic Community who were invited by the Chief Minister for the meeting included Charles Bonificio, former President of the Travel and Tourism Association who is a resident of Miramar. Also present was Dr Ajoy Estibeiro of the Esperanca hospital who is also one of the promoters of the doctors co-operative Healthway Hospital. We have other witnesses who are not only willing to swear affidavits but also have photographs of Manohar Parrikar seeking their votes and asking them to canvas the support of the other Catholics at the meeting in Mahalaxmi.n August 7, at 8:30 pm, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar met with a group of prominent Catholics at his official residence Mahalaxmi in Altinho, Panjim, in a gross violation of the model Code of Conduct that has been in-force since the dates for the bye-election were announced. Parrikar should be disqualified for misusing and abusing the office of the chief minister in violation of Election Commission guidelines. When there is an election for the Legislative Assembly, no member of the cabinet, including the chief minister, can use his official residence or office or vehicle for canvassing for votes. This time around the breach of the Code of Conduct by Manohar Parrikar is all the greater because he is not only the chief minister but also the candidate for the Panjim Assembly constituency in which the residence of the chief minister is located.
This is apparently not the first time that the Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has been holding election meetings at his official residence. Being the chief minister, Manohar Parrikar as a candidate for the Panjim Assembly seat should have vacated the official residence from the time the Code of Conduct came into place, until the date of the election August 23, or even until the results of the election are announced. This is because under the Code of Conduct any meeting that the chief minister may have held in his official residence at which he made any promises to the voters of Panjim should be considered a misuse and abuse of his position as chief minister for electoral purposes. Indeed Parrikar should have resigned as chief minister because a candidate contesting the elections cannot hold any office of profit. As the chief minister gets salaries and allowances from the government for holding the post and exercising the powers of the chief minister he should be automatically subject to disqualification. The Election Commission rules are clear that candidates contesting elections should not hold any office of profit at the time they are contesting the election and on being appointed to the cabinet as minister or chief minister.
The fact that the chief minister has been misusing and abusing his official residence is clear from a Facebook message posted by one of his supporters immediately after I posted a message on the meeting he held with prominent Catholics on August 7. The chief minister’s agent, Sanjay Dattatray Samalker, of Goa Junction, has posted that Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar would be available to residents of Panjim on Friday, August 11, 2017, between 3 pm to 4 pm at his election office near ICICI bank, Panjim, instead of his official residence at Mahalaxmi. This confirms that Parrikar has been meeting residents of Panjim at the official residence of the chief minister. Even the message posted is a violation of the Code of Conduct, as Parrikar cannot meet residents of Panjim at any place in the Panjim Assembly constituency in his capacity as chief minister. This is because beginning with the announcement of the election schedule, and until the declaration of results, Manohar Parrikar is only a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate, and not the chief minister. For him to meet residents of Panjim as chief minister is misuse and abuse of office.
The Election Commission rules and Code of Conduct which are mandatory, are designed to ensure a level playing field between the candidates contesting the election. Which is why the Election Commission stipulates that official machinery of the government cannot be used or abused by anyone, however mighty. The rule extends not only to the chief ministers of states and all government employees including the official privates secretaries and assistants of chief ministers and ministers, but even to the prime minister. The late Indira Gandhi was disqualified by the Allahabad bench of the Lucknow High Court for corrupt practices. The specific corrupt practice was that Yashpal Kapoor, who was the secretary to the prime minister, actively took part in her election campaign as a candidate in the Allahabad parliamentary constituency.
No objection can be taken to any assurances made by the Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on the floor of the Legislative Assembly. Although, considering that the election schedule had already been announced and the Code of Conduct had come into place, the Assembly session should have been postponed because the session provided not only Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, but also Health Minister Vishwajit Rane, who is contesting the Valpoi seat, an opportunity to make statements which may be considered inducements to the people of Panjim. These include assurances made on the expansion and reform of the health insurance scheme by Vishwajit Rane and announcements on the Investment Promotion Board (IPB) by the chairman of the board, who happens to be Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, the candidate for the Panjim Assembly seat.
But even outside the Legislative Assembly, Parrikar has been making statements as chief minister and not as the candidate for the Panjim Assembly constituency. The chief minister has been holding out assurances of additional funds from the Centre under the ‘Smart City’ scheme with the view to influence voters in Panjim. He has been claiming that he has drawn up an action plan whereby all the problems of Panjim would be solved in 365 days. Parrikar in his capacity as chief minister has been making statements to the effect that he intends to appoint an IAS officer to take care of the development of Panjim, since he does not have any confidence in the Corporation of the City of Panjim (CCP). This is strange considering that the CCP is now controlled by Babush Monserrate, who has extended his support to Parrikar.
It is not only Parrikar who has been violating the Code of Conduct. Among those campaigning for Parrikar and in his shadow is Sidharth Kuncalienker, who also happens to be the chairman of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC). For the duration of the election Kuncalienker, who vacated the Panjim seat for Parrikar should have quit his post as chairman. Kuncalienker’s act of campaigning for Parrikar while holding an office of profit as chairman of the EDC, means that Parrikar is also guilty of the same offence as Indira Gandhi. Kuncalienker is the counterpart of Yashpal Kapoor, who campaigned for Indira Gandhi while she was a candidate, despite holding an official position. Coincidently the person who filed the successful disqualification petition against Indira Gandhi was Raj Naraian the Socialist leader. I mention this because I am very often confused with Raj Naraian.
It is clear that the BJP hates to lose. That the BJP president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will go to any extent to win an election. This was dramatised in Gujarat where the BJP is alleged to have bribed Congress MLAs to engage in cross-voting to defeat the political advisor to the Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Ahmad Patel, the political advisor, was contesting the Rajya Sabha seat for the 8th time from his home state Gujarat. Each of the three candidates contesting the Rajya Sabha election from Gujarat needed 45 first preference votes to be elected. The number of first preference votes which is 1/3rd of the total strength of the State Assembly got reduced to 44 following the resignation of a few Congress MLAs.
The BJP was not content with winning the two seats contested by the BJP President Amit Shah and the Minister for Information Smriti Irani. On the contrary, they were more desperate to defeat Ahmed Patel. For Amit Shah it was a matter of prestige to get Patel, the most favoured advisor of Sonia Gandhi, defeated. The BJP not only spilt the Congress, inducing the defection of Shankar Singh Vaghela, but also got the NCP MLAs to vote for the rival BJP candidate. The Congress had to shift its 40 MLAs from Gujarat to the Congress ruled state of Karnataka to make sure that they were not poached by the BJP. Even so, at the last moment, the BJP President got two Congress MLAs to vote for the BJP candidate, allegedly by offering `15 crore each. Unfortunately for the BJP, the Congress MLAs were compelled to show their ballots to Amit Shah before putting them in the ballot box. This was a violation of the rules, as a member of one party is not permitted to show his vote to the rival party. The Election Commission disqualified the two Congress MLAs who had defied the party and voted for the BJP candidate in order to try to defeat Ahmed Patel. The Election Commission, despite being headed by an officer belonging to the Gujarat cadre, stood up to pressure from the BJP, which enabled the victory of Ahmed Patel.
There are concerns being expressed on social networks on whether Parrikar will declare an Emergency like Indira Gandhi if he loses the election to Girish Chodankar. While this is not possible, it reflects the doubts in the mind of people of the desperation of Parrikar and the lack of morals within the BJP. For the BJP what matters is not ‘playing the game’ or contesting the election, but winning it by fair means or foul. It is entirely possible that if Parrikar loses, as is likely, the BJP which now controls Rashtrapati Bhavan will impose President’s Rule in Goa to prevent the possibility of the Congress forming the government.
The Congress still has 16 seats in the Assembly even after the resignation of Vishwajit Rane. If the Congress wins both the Panjim and Valpoi seats it will have 18 seats. If the Congress offers the chief ministership to Vijai Sardesai he will forget all about Goa Forward and Parrikar and switch his support along with that of Babush to the Congress. We may still see happy days again in Goa. Instead of a Congress-mukt Bharat we might at least see a BJP-mukt Goa. But to achieve a BJP-mukt Goa the Congress will have to show as much fighting spirit as it displayed in Gujarat when it showed that though it was down it was not out, and fought to get Ahmed Patel re-elected to the Rajya Sabha.
In sharp contrast in Goa, when a meeting was convened by GPCC Chief Shantaram Naik to discuss the strategy for the bye-election, 10 of the 16 MLAs stayed away. None of the senior leaders of the party including former GPCC Chief Luzinho Falerio or former chief minister Digambar Kamat attended the meeting. We are not surprised that Pratap Singh Rane did not attend the meeting as he had already made it clear that blood was thicker than politics and that he would not campaign against his own son, who is contesting on the BJP ticket in Valpoi. Even worse, GPCC President Shantaram Naik de-moralised party workers by claiming that while Congress had a good chance of winning the Valpoi seat, it was very weak in Panjim.
The truth is the opposite. Despite all the money and the muscle power of the former chief minister Ravi Naik, it is extremely unlikely that he can match the Ranes in their own home. The Ranes have been kings of the Sattari Taluka ever since Liberation, and Roy Naik would be lucky to keep his deposit. Girish Chodankar may not be a Ponjekar, but he is not just a state level leader but a national level leader. For those who call Girish an outsider, it must be pointed out that Manohar Parrikar is equally an outsider since he has not bothered to shift his residence to Panjim even after representing the Constituency for 23 years. Admittedly he now has a home in Taleigao but it is not within the boundaries of the Panjim constituency.
As Girish has been repeatedly pointing out, he is only the voice of angry people of Panjim. The angry people of Panjim who are disgusted with Manohar Parrikar for not being able to provide a garbage dump and a waste treatment plant even 20 years after he shut down Curca. The angry people of Panjim who are disgusted with Parrikar for his inability and unwillingness to do anything about the St Inez nallah. The angry people of Panjim who are agitated over the floor area ratio being raised, leading to high rise buildings in the heart of Panjim. This has led to parking problems which have not been solved by the multi-level parking facility near the cruise jetty. The people of Panjim are angry over the destruction of infrastructure under the excuse of beautifying Panjim for IFFI. The people of Panjim have seen the citizen-friendly, accessible Parrikar turned into an arrogant dictator.
Girish can do it if the Congress leaders will give him a helping hand. The people of Panjim are with Girish and even the Aam Adami workers have accepted Girish as a sincere, honest, humble, and simple politician. Girish can do it because unlike Parrikar he identifies with the poor people of Panjim, as he himself comes from a humble background. Indeed, this is one of the few times that a member of the Bhandari Samaj has been put up by any party in Panjim, which otherwise has been a monopoly of the Saraswats. But even the Saraswats of Panjim are disgusted with Manohar Parrikar, as dramatised by the letter of Rajan Parrikar to Manohar Parrikar.
The Congress high command and the Congress low command must realised that the victory of Girish Chodankar is as important as that of Ahmed Patel. Like Ahmed Patel, Girish Chodankar is a General Secretary of the AICC and a close associate of Rahul Gandhi. If Girish manages to defeat Manohar Parrikar it will be a major setback to the BJP. Parrikar is among the top leaders of the BJP. He is the man who put Modi in the prime minister’s chair, which is why Amit Shah went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that he became the chief minister although the BJP got only 13 seats.
This is not just an election to the Panjim Assembly seat. It is a prestigious election to defeat a senior BJP leader who has held the seat for five terms and is seeking a 6th term. We have the opportunity to stop the growth of the BJP and its ambition to set up a Nazi-like dictatorship in the country. A vote for Girish is a vote against dictatorship.