GLOOMY: Christmas will not be merry this year as there is no cash to buy trees, decorations, cribs and gifts.
And a few stray thoughts and a few more observations for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday when the Ministry of Finance and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) conspired to deprive Goans of a merry Christmas. For a Saturday following the week when the owner and captain of the ‘Titanic’ remained complacent even as more Congress MLAs quit. For a Saturday following the week when it was clear that the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) was growing from strength to strength in the run-up to the elections and may decide to give a talaq to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). And a few stray thoughts on the sharp decline in tourism traffic during peak season. And the Serendipity Festival which concludes this weekend.
And a few stray thoughts on the harassment of the minority community by prime minister Narendra Modi and the RBI. Demonetisation was announced on November 8 2016 after Dussehra and Diwali to avoid inconvenience to the majority community. But Finance minister Arun Jaitley has shown no such consideration for the minority Catholic community.
Initially, Modi declared that old `1000 and `500 notes could be deposited in banks until December 31. When there were long queues before banks, he and Jaitley kept insisting that people need not panic and could take their time as they could deposit their hard earned money that was declared illegal overnight until the end of the year.
BUT suddenly on Liberation Day, a bank holiday only in Goa, the rules were changed again to victimise the state’s trading community. The Finance ministry and RBI suddenly announced that effective from the night of December 19, traders and small businessman could only deposit `5000 in their bank accounts. To deposit higher amounts, they had to satisfy bank managers with explanations why they had delayed in depositing the old notes. The managers paid no attention when traders pointed out that Modi himself had advised them not to panic and add to the queues as they had sufficient time till December 31.
The people most affected by this sudden decision of advancing the deadline was the minority community because it comes on the eve of Christmas. Chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar has promised to speak to the RBI and State Bank of India to ensure that enough new `500 and `1000 notes would be sent to Goa in time for Christmas.
Our enquiry on Tuesday to the RBI revealed that the new `500 note had yet to be printed and there was no question of sending new notes to Goa in time for Christmas. This means that Goans will find it difficult to buy Christmas decorations, or even sweets and clothes, all of which have to be paid for in cash. Most ATMs do not have money and if they do, they only dispense `2000 notes for which you cannot get any change. The situation is worse in many other states including Uttar Pradesh. Perhaps the government will wake up when there is a riot as in Venezuela when they demonetised the currency.
AND a few stray thoughts on the sinking of the Congress Titanic. Like the luxury ship which sank on its first voyage, the Congress Titanic is sinking metre by metre with some MLA or other deserting it every day. Not that it had too many MLAs to start with. In the last assembly elections, only nine Congress candidates were elected. Of these, Babush Monserrate was expelled for fighting against the Congress panel in the Panjim municipal election.
Mauvin Godinho, who has been flirting with the Sangh Parivar for the last two years, formally joined the party recently. We fail to understand how Manohar Parrikar could repeat the mistake he made in 2002 when he induced Babush to join the BJP with the offer of the Town & Country Planning portfolio. Parrikar has maintained that his relationship with the corrupt Babush is because the latter did not contest against Siddharth Kunkolienkar in the by election when Parrikar moved to Delhi.
GODINHO is a bad version of Babush, being among the most corrupt MLAs in Goa. Not surprisingly, BJP workers in Mormugao are demanding that he should not be given the ticket for the Dabolim constituency. In any case, the MGP has demanded 25 tickets if the BJP wants it to be part of the alliance.
Congress MLAs and aspiring MLAs seem to be convinced that the Titanic is sinking. This is also partly because of the strange behaviour of ‘Raga’, as the national press has started calling Rahul Gandhi. He huffed and puffed and threatened to blow away Modi against whom he claimed he had explosive proof of corruption. All the leaders of the opposition parties were waiting for him to march to Rashtrapati Bhavan to meet the president with the evidence. But Raga changed his mind and had a meeting with Modi on helping the farmers of Uttar Pradesh, leaving the opposition stranded.
Since they cannot have confidence in their national vice president who has taken Sonia Gandhi’s place as she is not well, the local leaders have no confidence in Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Luizinho Faleiro. The situation is made worse by the war between him and Pratap Singh Rane, which is like a war between the Hindus and Catholics in the Congress.
BESIDES Godinho, Cumbarjua MLA Pandurang Madkaikar has quit the Congress and joined the MGP. His excuse was that the Congress is neither interested in nor can win the elections and therefore it was best for him to join the MGP. In fact, it is the MGP and not the BJP which is the flavour of the season. Besides Madkaikar, Babu Asgaonkar, who is the hero of Gandhi Market in Margao, has also joined the BJP.
When Raga came to Goa to address a public meeting in Fatorda, Babu kept the whole Gandhi market closed so the traders could attend the meeting. The next day he resigned from the Congress and joined the MGP to fight the Pernem seat which is reserved for the backward classes. Currently, the constituency is represented by Forest minister Rajendra Arlekar.
Of the nine MLAs from the Congress elected in 2012, Babush is contesting from Panjim and his wife from Taleigao as independents. Madkaikar has moved to the MGP and Godinho to the BJP, leaving just four. Former chief minister Digambar Kamat is expected to join the Goa Forward party. Vishwajeet Rane is also talking of joining the BJP. The only bright side is that no sitting Congress MLAs will be fighting for the ticket.
And a few stray thoughts on the perception that the MGP is getting stronger in the approach to the elections. It won only three seats in 2012 but is confident of winning at least 15 next year and emerging as the single largest party. So it has started baiting Laxmikant Parsekar. It may be recalled that Sudin Dhavalikar had announced that the MGP would not accept an alliance headed by Parsekar. The latter reacted by dropping the Dhavalikar brothers from the cabinet. It would now look as though the split is complete.
The MGP is confident because it has an alliance with the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM). BBSM convenor Subhash Velingkar has been the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief in Goa for more than 30 years. Even though the RSS headquarters in Nagpur sacked him, he continues to enjoy the confidence of the local cadres who have been taking care of the elections for the BJP at the booth level.
They go house to house to arrange for voters to go to the booth and vote for the BJP. The RSS revolt and their alliance with the BJP is a major shock to the Sangh Parivar. It is because of the guarantee of support from the BBSM that Dhavalikar is confident of splitting the BJP and contesting the elections on his own. The Shiv Sena which has aligned with the BBSM is also likely to support the MGP.
EVERYONE asks me which party or group will win the 2017 elections. I personally believe that both the BJP and the Congress will be wiped out. I think the MGP-BBSM alliance will only contribute to the BJP’s last rites. The MGP may get some seats because of Velingkar’s RSS workers and the continued attraction of the lion symbol.
I believe that Goa Forward had good chances in the south and if it joins with Rohan Khaunte and Babush, it could become the king maker if not king. Personally, I would like an alliance between Goa Forward and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) even though I do not like many AAP candidates with the exception of Elvis Gomes, Dr Marian Godinho and Pradeep Padgaonkar. I believe the results will be a khichdi with no party getting clear majority. But khichdi is very good for the health of democracy.
And a few stray thoughts on the decline in tourism traffic during the height of the peak season. The Christmas-New Year week is considered the most profitable season for the industry, contributing 40-50 per cent of the annual revenue. But this year, the bells are not jingling so loudly thanks to demonetisation.
People who want to come to Goa do not have money to pay taxi drivers, and shacks, restaurants and small lodges only accept cash. The worst affected will be domestic tourists, but many charters have also been cancelled because of demonetisation. Tourists do not want to stand in a queue to collect a `2000 note from an ATM.
The tourism industry has also been affected by the sharp fall in casino visits. All transactions in the six off-shore casinos and the dozen on-shore casinos are carried out strictly in cash. `500 and `1000 notes were the main currency used to buy chips and collect winnings. Unfortunately because these notes have been scrapped, the casinos are virtually empty.
Hotels would get a lot of business from the casinos which offered complementary rooms to big gamblers. A senior official in a casino confessed that business was very bad. It has become worse because of the warning of the election commission to the state government to keep a watch on casinos for attempts to launder money.
The tourism industry has also been hit by the cancellation of electronic music festival Sunburn which took place annually in Goa in the last week of December. In the last few years, we have had two electronic music festivals. Both have been moved to Pune as organisers were not willing to offer the huge bribes demanded by Tourism minister Dilip Parulekar. Goa’s loss is Pune’s gain as many lakhs of music lovers would attend the festivals.
It is a bad time for the tourism industry as most business is in cash. Water sports activities on the beach, shacks – which are popular with both foreign and domestic tourists – and taxis which loot tourists do not accept debit and credit cards. Domestic tourists who like to buy bottles of alcohol to drink on the beach have to pay for it in cash. Even if they are lucky to have debit cards and are able to withdraw money, they will only get `2000 for which nobody will give them change. All sections of the tourism industry are mourning.
And a last stray thought for yet another Saturday. I fully agree that festivals of art and culture like Serendipity are preferable to electronic music shows which attract more drug addicts and drug dealers then music lovers. The only problem is that the common man or even the average tourist does not even know what Serendipity means. I do not know why the organisers could not have used a simple word like fusion which is what the festival is all about.
I understand that the art, music and culture festival is sponsored by the Munjals who make Hero Motor bikes. Even after their break up with Honda, they are still the biggest bike manufacturers in the country. I understand that they have financed the entire festival of arts and culture. They have certainly performed a miracle at the Adil Shah Palace which I have only known as a dusty, dirty government office which also housed the Legislative Assembly of Goa. Its transformation into a museum has taken 10 years.
AT THE moment, it is a khazana of the best in the history of visual art and the preservation of the rich heritage of Goa whether it is jewellery or clothes or crafts and art. My fear is that once the exhibition gets over it will be back to square one with no money to maintain the building leave alone the exhibition, unless the government can be persuaded to hand over the Adil Shah Palace to the Munjals or to Dipti and Dattaraj Salgaonkar as they have done in the case of Reis Magos Fort.
I wish they did not insist on registration which is preventing a lot of young people from participating in the best cultural event I have witnessed since coming to Goa in 1983. Only for God’s sake, don’t make it so serendipitous.