BIG DADDY: The towed Lucky 7 will have to pay high taxes in its avatar as the Big Daddy casino
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the IT Chief of the BJP, Amit Malviya, leaked the dates of the Karnataka Assembly elections even before the Election Commission (EC). For a Saturday following the week when the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) seemed to be headed for a split. For a Saturday following the week when the State Government raised the Casino fees steeply to compensate for the loss of mining revenue. For a Saturday following the week when the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) rejected the application of the Jindals to increase and revive their coal handling operations at MPT. For a Saturday following the week when a war seems to have opened up between the mining lobby and the taxi lobby.
CAT OUT OF THE BAG
And a few stray thoughts on BJP IT Chief Amit Malliya disclosing the election schedule for the Karnataka Assembly even before the EC, reinforcing the impression that it was the BJP which was controlling the EC. The EC announced on Tuesday that elections to the Karnataka Assembly will be held on May 12 in a single phase while the counting would take place on May 15. But the few minutes before the EC made the announcement the BJP IT Chief Amit Malliya made the announcement pre-empting the EC. Except that while Malliya got the date of the election right, in his tweet he claimed that the counting would be on March 18 and not on the 15 as decided by the EC. Interestingly the Congress IT Chief also tweeted the election date before the EC.
The EC has belatedly set up a committee of senior officials to probe the leak since the date of the election schedule is supposed to be secret and not be made available to the public, particularly to political parties. This is because the Code of Conduct comes into force on the day the election schedule is announced by the EC. Once the election schedule is announced the concerned state government cannot make any announcement or start any new schemes.
At least in theory, from the date the election schedule is announced to the completion of the election process which culminates in the formation of the new government, all power is exercised not by the chief minister of the state or his Cabinet or even the officials of the state, but the state EC, representing the central EC. Indeed the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has the right to transfer any officials, including the Chief Secretary and senior police officials, if they are considered biased towards any particular political party. Indeed tradionally the collectors and the SPs are transferred from one district to another on the eve of the elections.
The leak of the election schedule is another nail in the coffin of the independence of the EC. It has already been accused of permitting large scale tampering of EVM machines. It has been the experience of rival political parties that the Sangh Parivar does better when EVMs are used instead of the traditional paper ballot. Which is why the EC has introduced the system of a paper trail linked to the EVM machine so that there will be no room for doubt. It is not known whether the paper trail will be made compulsory in the Karnataka elections which the BJP is desperate to win.
The state is currently controlled by the Congress. In fact, it is the only large state in the country which has a Congress government. Karnataka is the only state in the South where the BJP had previously succeeded in forming the government under the present party president Yeddhurappa. Much to the glee of the Congress party, Amit Shah in a speech in Karnataka referred to his own party president as the most corrupt chief minister in the state.
Goa has to be very careful about protecting the Mandovi river now that elections in Karnataka have been announced. It may be recalled that the BJP president Yeddyurappa, who has been named the prospective chief minister if the BJP wins the Karnataka elections, had turned to Parrikar demanding 7.8 CTC of water for drinking for the Hubli and Belgavi areas which suffer from acute water shortage.
In the light of strong protests from the Mhadei Bachao Andolan (MBA), former advocate general Atmaram Nadkarni was asked to lodge a protest against the construction of the Kalsa dam near Belgavi. In fact Yeddyurappa had treated the positive response of Parrikar as a green signal for diverting the waters of the Mhadei to the Malaprabha basin.
Nadkarni managed to prove before the Supreme Court and the Mhadei Water Tribunal that for drinking water purposes Karnataka needed only 0.8 TMC.
The Karnataka government, much to the annoyance of Nitin Gadkari who is in charge of Karnataka, was forced to stop work on the Kalsa dam and restore it to the original situation. There is however reason to suspect that although the Karnataka suspended work it did not dismantle the dam there is no water in the Surla waterfall.
Karnataka has misused its own water resources by encouraging large scale growth of sugarcane which consumes large quantities of water. It is now trying to divert the Mhadei river which is the source of Mandovi which will be disastrous for Goa. If the Mhadei is diverted not only will the Dudhsagar falls be affected but the Mandovi and Zuari rivers also will have no water and there will be acute shortage of drinking water in Goa’s capital Panjim.
Panjim will go the way of Bangalore which is following in the footsteps of Cape Town in South Africa which has run out of water. In Cape Town, when the Indian cricket Team played against South Africa they were limited to one bucket of water and told not to use showers even in the 5 star hotel where they was staying.
In Bengaluru because of the pollution of the lakes and concretisation of the rivers, the water shortage is so acute that like Cape Town it might be the second city in the world which may run out of water.
In fact NGOs have predicted that the third world war will not be about land but water.
And a few stray thoughts on the revolt within the MGP. A former MGP MLA from Ponda, former police officer Lavu Mamaldar, has accused the Dhavalikar brothers of hijacking the party. It may be recalled that when Parrikar became ill, Sudin Dhavalikar had gone to the extent of offering to merge the MGP with the BJP in the hope of becoming the chief minister. We understand that Sudin Dhavalikar had the support of Nitin Gadkari, a confidante of Narendra Modi.
Unfortunately for Sudin, Parrikar did not trust him enough to make him acting chief minister. Instead he set up a Cabinet Advisory Committee (CAC) which included besides Sudin, Vijai Sardesai of Goa Forward, and Francis D’Souza of the BJP. But even the term of this Cabinet committee is only till March 31. It is not clear what is going to happen after the March 31.
In fact this may be a hint that President’s rule will be declared in Goa and the Assembly dissolved to prevent attempts by the Congress to topple the government with the help of Vijai Sardesai. Vijai Sardesai is aware of the close link between Nitin Gadkari and Dhavalikar and was bitterly opposed to Sudin becoming the chief minister.
Former MGP MLA Mamaldar has dropped another bomb. He now claims that the letter of support given by Sudin Dhavalikar to Manohar Parrikar to form the Government in Goa was illegal. The former cop claims that the permission of the party executive was not taken before it was decided to support the Parrikar government.
Meanwhile Sudin Dhavalikar’s brother Deepak, who is the president of the party, has announced that the party will support the BJP only as long as Parrikar is the chief minister. The moment Parrikar is removed, the MGP will withdraw support.
Deepak has also claimed that the MGP will contest the next Assembly election whenever it is held on its own, and not in alliance with the BJP. Deepak expects the MGP to get 21 seats and form the government which is wishful thinking as the MGP has not got more than four seats in the last two decades.
The tragedy is that MGP is a party which had got very loyal cadres who were betrayed by their leaders. The majority of the frustrated cadres turned to the BJP. The success of the BJP was built on the ruins of the MGP.
Even the daughter of the first MGP chief minister of Goa, Dayanand Bandodkar, deserted the party and joined the Congress. In the ‘90s the two senior-most leaders of the party, which then had 14 seats in the 40 member State Assembly, deserted the party.
In the first phase Ramakant Kalap quit the party along with six reporters to become deputy chief minister in the PDF government. Subsequently Ravi Naik was tempted by the then Congress President Dr Wilfred D’Souza to quit whatever was left of the MGP and join the Congress with his reward being the chief minister’s post.
CASINOS UNDER FIRE
And a few stray thoughts on the government of Goa hiking casino fees steeply to make up for the loss of revenue from mining. Since the Centre has not responded positively to the demand for an ordinance overruling the Supreme Court verdict striking down the second renewal of mining leases there is little hope of mining starting any time soon. The Centre has made it clear that it agrees with Supreme Court that the mines in Goa should be auctioned.
In the absence of mining activity Goa stand to lose revenue of almost Rs 1,000 crore every year. There will be no mining royalties or contributions to the mining affected development fund. On the contrary there is strong political pressure from the mining MLAs for waiving of loans taken by truck owners and barge owners when there was the mining boom.
Sesa Goa, which is owned by the London based Vedanta, has already told its 2,500 employees working in the mines not to report to work. It is expected that other mining companies will also ask their staff to leave.
As far as the truck owners are concern it is not so much unemployment as loss of income. This is because the Goans are only owners of the trucks which were driven by migrants. The migrant drivers who used to operate the trucks have already left Goa. But the problem is that the truck owners and the barge owners have borrowed a lot of money from the co-operative banks. There is a strong possibility that the banks will take away their trucks and barges. The government on its part is in no position to offer them any relief as they did last time as they are kadka (bankrupt) and the only man who can take a decision is in New York.
In what seems like a desperate act of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs, the State government has increased the fees levied on the casino industry between 2.5 to 4.5 times.
Casinos operating in a space of between 300 and 500 sq mtr will now have to pay Rs 25 crore instead of the existing Rs 5.50 crore. Those whose area is between 500 sq mtr and 750 sq mtrs will have to pay Rs 32 crore instead of the present Rs 7 crore. Those who are functioning in an area between 750 to 1,000 sq mtr will have to pay Rs 36 crore, and all those who have gambling areas of more than 1,000 sq mtr have to pay more than Rs 40 crore as against the present Rs 8.5 crore. This is not all. Casinos licence fees have been increased from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 50 lakh. The security deposit also has been doubled to 50 lakh and the renewal fee has increased from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 25 lakh. Any casino which wants to transfer its licence will now have to pay Rs 50 crore instead of the existing Rs 20 crore.
The worst affected will be Jaidev Modi whose casinos are the largest — more than 1,000 sq mtrs. Among the land casinos, the ‘Casino Strike’ at Grand Hyaat and the ‘Casino Carnival’ at Marriott are likely to be affected.
The steep increase in various fees will force the casinos to charge high entry fees. This will further discourage at least Goans from going to casinos.
Talking of casinos, it is alleged that Deepak Dhavalikar visits casinos very often and has organised a separate water connection for Deltin Royale.
And a last stray thought for yet another Saturday. There seems to be a clash between the mining MLAs and the MGP MLAs.
The mining MLAs, which include the speaker Promod Sawant and Nilesh Cabral, do not want any action to be taken against mining goons who destroyed public property and harassed the public, including children. The MGP president and the transport minister on the other hand want the police to take strict action — which is happy news for the police who were very angry about political interference.
The MGP president says that the truck owners were instigated by the taxi lobby. Dhavalikar has an old panga with the taxi owners.
There was in the meanwhile another confrontation, this time at the airport between the members of the United Taximen Association (UTA) and the new maxi car rental service. The airport authority has permitted M/s Taj India Tours to offer 50 rental cars at the airport. There was a demonstration and even clashes between the new taxi agency at the airport and the black top taxis. All taxis in Goa want to blacken the face of Goa.