SOCIAL MEDIA: War has been declared between the BJP and the AAP on social media, with each trolling the other

And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Goa Pradesh Congress Committee chief (GPCC) Luizinho Faleiro found himself isolated. For a Saturday following the week when Manohar Parrikar succeeded in persuading Mayem MLA Anant Shet not to revolt against the party. For a Saturday following the week when wars broke out on social media between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). For a Saturday following the week when in the face of strong public pressure, the limit for withdrawal from ATMs was increased to `10,000 per transaction. For a Saturday following the week when even in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress opted for a ghatbandhan.

Faleiro Isolated

AND a few stray thoughts on the isolation of GPCC chief Luizinho Faleiro, who opposed any alliance particularly with the Goa Forward Party backed by his rivals Digambar Kamat and Pratap Singh Rane. Faleiro wanted the alliance to be limited to the Nationalist Congress Party primarily to oblige Churchill Alemao with whom he had an understanding. They had agreed that Alemao would move back to his original seat in Benaulim instead of contesting from Navelim.

Historically, Navelim has been Faleiro’s stronghold. Until he lost the 2002 Assembly elections to Alemao, he had won every poll he fought from 1981. In 1981, when Faleiro quit the Congress and joined the Goa Congress with Dr Wilfred D’Souza, he was the only candidate to get elected. Navelim is a predominantly Catholic constituency in which the parish priest has great influence. Faleiro made the mistake of falling foul of the parish priest who decided to shift his loyalty to Alemao causing Faleiro to lose his seat in 2002.

Though he moved to the Centre as general secretary of the All India Congress Committee in 2012 and was put in charge of the north east states, Faleiro kept in touch with his constituency in Navelim. In 2007, though he did not contest Assembly elections, he extended support to independent candidate Avertano Furtado who was supported by the BJP. With their help, Furtado defeated Congress’ official candidate Churchill Alemao.

This time around, Faleiro did not want to take any chances and looked to avoid a confrontation with Alemao. It was agreed that the latter would join the NCP which had an alliance with the Congress at the Centre and in Maharashtra. This would ensure that the Congress would not oppose Alemao in his old seat Benaulim, and he in turn would support Faleiro in Navelim. Unfortunately for Faleiro, his plan to capture the party and become chief minister was frustrated by Pratap Singh Rane and Digambar Kamat.

Both former chief ministers were equally opposed to his return to state politics and the Congress supporting Alemao, who had repeatedly betrayed the party. When Faleiro was appointed GPCC president, he insisted that he was not interested in power and only wanted to revive the Congress party in the state.

But on the eve of the polls, he revealed his true colours and claimed that in response to demands from his supporters in Navelim, he had decided to contest. The natural corollary was that he wanted to become chief minister again. Though Faleiro had previously become chief minister twice, he could not complete his term and was toppled by Congress rebels.

Conspiracy Sabotaged

BOTH Rane and Kamat, who are from the majority Hindu community and were also interested in the kodel, decided to sabotage the conspiracy between Faleiro and Alemao. The two insisted that the Congress could return to power only if it entered an alliance with the United Goans Democratic Party (UGDP) which had been taken over by Babush Monserrate and Goa Forward of which Vijai Sardesai was the main face.

They managed to convince Congress high command Digvijay Singh and Rahul Gandhi. So much so, the Faleiro conspiracy was defeated with the Congress entering into an alliance with Monserrate and Sardesai, but dropping Alemao and isolating Faleiro.

Parrikar Quells Revolt

AND a few stray thoughts on Defence minister Manohar Parrikar managing to quell the revolt within the BJP. Parrikar had persuaded close friend Raju Sukerkar to withdraw from the contest in Panjim. The North Goa Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief was nominated by the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM) to contest against Siddharth Kunkolienkar and would have posed a major challenge to the BJP’s official candidate.

In fact, Sukerkar was widely respected and may have even been able to take on Monserrate. Now even BJP workers suspect that though officially Monserrate has an alliance with the Congress, he may also have a secret setting with Parrikar. This would not be surprising as in 2000, Monserrate, who was elected on a UGDP ticket, joined BJP when Parrikar offered him the post of minister for Town and Country Planning.

Again during the by-election caused by Parrikar’s move to Delhi, he managed to persuade Monserrate not to contest against Siddharth Kunkolienkar. Monserrate, who may win as many as four seats, will probably join whichever party offers him the best deal.

The BJP also faces a revolt in Mayem and Canacona where speaker Anant Shet and Sports minister Ramesh Tawadkar were not given tickets for the 2017 elections. Both decided to join the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and contest against the BJP.

Parrikar managed to persuade Shet not to rebel and withdraw from the elections, promising him the chairmanship of a corporation with a cabinet rank if BJP came back to power. The seat has been given to former Congress leader Pravin Zantye whose family are Goa’s cashew kings and own the Ashok and Samrat theatres. In Canacona, however, Tawadkar agreed not to join the MGP but has filed his nomination as an independent candidate. It is possible that he may be pressurised into withdrawing from the contest on the last date for withdrawals.

Troubled Alliance

THE alliance between Goa Forward and the Congress seems to have run into trouble. In the earlier understanding, the Congress was to allot the Fatorda, Siolim, Saligao, Porvorim and Velim seats to Goa Forward. The Congress, or at least the Digvijay Singh group, had agreed to giving Goa Forward four seats while suggesting a friendly contest in Velim.

It would appear that Faleiro has succeeded in sabotaging the agreement at least partially. At the time of writing comes news that contrary to the agreement, the Congress has allotted the Saligao seat to corrupt former Congress MLA Agnelo Fernandes.

Withdrawals Up

AND a few stray thoughts on the limit for withdrawals from ATMs being increased from `4,500 to `10,000 per day. However, the limit of `24,000 a week will continue. In the case of current accounts operated by companies, the withdrawal limit has been increased from `50,000 to `1 lakh. Nobody is happy over the increase to `10,000 because most ATMs have only `2,000 notes which nobody wants as it is difficult to get change.

The plan to stock ATMs with new `500 notes has not been completed due to the slow printing of notes. Moreover, more than half the ATMs have still to be calibrated to hold the new 500 notes which differ size from the old notes.

The mushkil faced by the common man thanks to demonetisation continues. Among those complaining the most are foreign tourists and non-residents, including Goans, who come for Christmas and New Year. They do not fancy the idea of standing in queues to withdraw money from the ATMs.

They are not happy with the upper limit of `24,000 per week in respect of withdrawals from the banks as many hotels do not have facilities for card payments. The biggest problem in Goa of course is how to pay the taxi. With drivers charging `1,500 for a trip from the airport to Calangute, the tourist must pay in cash as they are not connected to Ola and Uber who accept electronic payments.

Indeed those who are complaining most bitterly are the thousands of well-to-do people of Indian origin who came to attend the Parvasi celebrations in Bangalore. Many complained that they had problems due to withdrawal limits. Surely the Narendra Modi government should relax the rules for tourists. Even if hotels, restaurants and shops have the machines for swiping cards, they often do not function due to poor connectivity. In fact, many times even the computers of the banks don’t function.

RBI as Lap Dog

THERE is also a controversy over the role of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). According to the law, the RBI is the custodian of all currency notes. It is the RBI governor who is responsible for notes, which bear his signature. The government cannot withdraw currency of any denomination without the permission of the RBI. Present RBI governor Urjit Patel has admitted that he was acting under government orders.

The worst part is that the government encroached on the RBI’s independence. The management of currency which includes how many notes to print and to which banks they should be sent is the RBI’s responsibility. According to unions attached to the RBI, the Modi government took over the function of currency management.

Newly printed notes were sent to states where elections are being held. So while Tamil Nadu and the South which are not going to the polls were starved of notes, there was a flood of `500 and `2,000 notes in Uttar Pradesh. The unions have demanded that RBI governor Patel resign as he had behaved like a lap-dog of the Modi government.

According to unions, the government had suggested demonetisation to former RBI governor Dr Raghuram Rajan who was not given a second term by Modi. Rajan had refused, insisting that only five per cent of black money was stored in currency form with the rest invested in real estate and jewellery. Reports suggest that even after November 8, several thousand crores worth of jewellery was bought with the old notes, a favourite method of changing black money into white.

Demonetisation Effect

THE BJP is particularly scared that the demonetisation mushkil will affect them in the elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Both these are agriculture states where farmers have no money to buy seeds and other material. They cannot sell the harvest because the agents who buy them do not have enough cash to pay them.

In rural India, everybody uses cash. Traditional craft industries have also suffered because of the demonetisation and the limit on withdrawals. Salaries of contract labour employed in these industries have to be paid in cash. Many large companies are also affected because they sub-contract work to small units who pay their employees daily wages. Similarly, the beedi and fireworks industries are hard hit as there is no money to pay the workers. In many urban areas, including Goa, migrant labour have gone back to the villages as they have not been paid.

Gatbandhan Raj

AND a last stray thought for yet another Saturday. The Congress seems to have decided that it cannot win elections on its own in any of the states where elections are being held between February and March. Initially, it had announced that former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit who was trounced by AAP chief convenor Arvind Kejriwal would be the Congress chief minister of Uttar Pradesh on the excuse that she was the bahu of Uttar Pradesh being married to man from UP. Dixit, who is almost 80 years old, was not happy with being forced into the role.

UP is important to the Gandhis as it is the home of the Nehru family, which by accident is called the Gandhi family. It has nothing to do with Mahatma Gandhi and is called Gandhi only because Nehru’s daughter Indira was briefly married to a Parsi called Feroz Gandhy.

She retained the name even after being separated from her husband so that she could claim the Mahatma’s legacy just like Modi is trying to do by publishing calendars and posters of himself spinning the charkha.

In UP also, crown prince Rahul Gandhi, who was forced to take over because Sonia Gandhi is not well, has decided that the Congress cannot win on its own. The Congress has decided not only to enter into an alliance with UP politician Akhilesh Yadav but even accept him as chief minister.

Dixit is of course happy that she will not have to take up the burden of being chief minister. Akhilesh has been involved in a huge battle with his own father Mulayam Yadhav for control of the party. The trouble maker is notorious wheeler dealer and fixer Amar Singh who introduced Mulayam Yadhav to film stars like Amitabh Bachchan and industrialists like Mukesh Ambani and Sahara chief Subroto Roy who was jailed for two years for cheating small investors.

But in the battle between son and father, the Election Commission has supported the son and has given him the party’s cycle symbol. This is important as most voters are illiterate and go by the symbol and not by the name of the party or candidate. In Goa too, many villagers have an attachment for the MGP’s lion symbol because of the liberation from the bhatkars during the tenure of first chief minister Dayanand Bandodkar.

Rahul Gandhi is obliviously content to play second fiddle. Whether it is in UP or Goa, he wants to be the kingmaker rather than the king.


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