RISKED: The late Vasudev Salgaocar seen in the picture (third from the left from Jack Sequiera) staked the entire business he had build up from scratch to preserve the unique identity of Goa. Vasudev Salagocar was the only industrialist who openly and actively funded and supported anti-merger forces
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday coinciding with the day the victory of the anti-merger forces was announced by the election commission on January 19, 1967. For a Saturday following the week when the chief minister Manohar Parrikar admitted that the new Mandovi bridge was unsafe for pedestrians and two wheelers. For a Saturday following the week when the director general of police Muktesh Chandra boasted that traffic challans had been issued to more than half the population of Goa. For a Saturday following the week when the biggest casualty of the Rafale aircraft scam was Vishwajit Rane.
OPINION POLL MEMORIES
And a few stray thoughts on the victory of the anti merger forces in the historical Opinion Poll held on January 16.
It needs to be clarified however that the results of the unique Opinion Poll were announced only as late as January 19, 1967. So it is debatable whether Opinion Poll day should be commemorated on the January 16 when the voting began or January 19 when the results were announced.
The reason why it was called an Opinion Poll and not a referendum which it actually was is because India had rejected the demand for a referendum by Pakistan in Kashmir. The babus in Delhi were smart enough to come out with a new terminology which would not put India in diplomatic hot waters.
Another significant feature of the Opinion Poll was it was not limited to Goans resident in Goa. The anti-merger United Goans party insisted that Goans residing in any part of India or for that matter any part of the world should be allowed to vote in the Opinion Poll. The Election Commission which had been entrusted with the task of conducting the poll agreed to permit Goans living in other parts of the country to register themselves as voters for the Opinion Poll. It is reported that over 25,000 voters came by ship and by air and by road to decide the destiny of Goa. Appropriately the voting process was initiated with the hoot of one of ship Champavati which as moored in the Mandovi river and had brought voters anxious to participate in the Opinion Poll.
The voting was as intense as the campaigning and stretched over three days. Those were the days when there were no EVMs and it was ballot papers which were cast. Since Goa was unfamiliar with the voting process, it took a long time to complete the whole process.
There were dramatic swings in the voting pattern depending on which constituencies were taken up for counting. At the end of the first day of counting when 121,374 votes of an estimated 320,000 were counted from 167 booths, the anti-merger group was lagging behind with 53,756 votes against 64,335 votes in favour of merger. Significantly, 3,283 votes were declared invalid. The MGP which was formed primarily to merge Goa with Maharashtra while happy with the lead were not satisfied with the narrow margin. The anti-merger group was jubilant as they had made inroads into Marathi-wadi areas.
A dramatic change in fortunes occurred on the second day when counting went on till 8:30 pm with the anti-merger group making a strong come back. It was a day of high drama with the pro-merger lead falling, rising, and falling again while counting progressed through 11 constituencies. The overnight margin of 10,579 votes enjoyed by the pro-merger group fell by 2,455 by noon. The pro-merger group continued to gain and achieved a lead of 20,000 votes. It was all hunky-dory for the Marathi-wadis till the counting in Salcete began. Then it was downhill all the way.
By the end of day 2, 28 of the 32 constituencies had been accounted for with the merger group securing 1,25,000 votes while the anti-merger group trotted past them with 1,33,000 votes.
The shape of things to come was clear by the third day which happened to be January 19, 1967. The three constituencies of Benaulim, Cuncolim and Velim, which were taken up at the end of the third day were responsible for the landslide victory of the anti-merger forces. The final tally showed that 54.2% of the voters cast their votes against merger, demolishing the myth that the majority of Goans favoured merger.
The general belief even now is that the voting in the Opinion Poll was communally polarized with Hindus voting for merger while the Catholics voted against merger. This was not true as even if all the Catholics who constituted 40% of the total population then had voted against merger they could not have won without Hindu support.
Though the Catholics would like to have us believe that Jack Sequeira was the sole architect of the Goa retaining its identity the truth is that many prominent Hindu leaders like Purshottam Kakodkar, Chandrakant Keni, Uday Bhembre and others also opposed merger. Indeed it is believed that the Hindu anti-merger leaders towards the end even managed to convince the MGP chief minister Dayanand Bandodkar that it would be against his own personal interest to merge Goa with Maharashtra. If it happened he would be reduced to the status of a Sarpanch instead of the high position of chief ministership.
The one person who needs to be singled out is the late Vasudev Salgaocar who staked his entire business empire on the outcome of the poll and financed the anti-merger groups. This despite visits from the industries minister of Maharashtra and pressure from the Maharashtrian lobby in the Indira cabinet in New Delhi headed by Y B Chavan.
And a few stray thoughts on on the third Mandovi bridge expected to be inaugurated on January 20.
As admitted by the principle architect of the bridge, Manohar Parrikar, himself, the new Taj Mahal is unsafe for not just pedestrains but even for two wheelers. The bridge which towers over the two existing bridges has a very high wind velocity which may blow away a pedestrian and two wheelers into the waters of the Mandovi. Or worse still fall on the other two bridges below the towering disaster.
The logic behind building a third bridge over the Mandovi was to facilitate direct access from the Ponda highway to the Madgaon highway. At present those coming from the north have to run the obstacle race posed by the traffic jams at the Kadamba Bus Stand in Panjim. But the few minutes they may gain by avoiding the direct connection to the Madgaon highway is nullified by the traffic jams which have mushroomed on the Agacaim-Verna stretch. It’s a case of jumping from the frying pan into the fire as the traffic jams on the approach roads to the Zuari bridge extend two hours. There have been many instances of the mantris themselves being caught in the traffic jam and passengers having to miss their flights.
The Congress of course insists that the bridge is not ready and is being hurriedly inaugurated as the only date that Prime Minister Modi could offer was January 20. It is not even sure yet whether Narendra Modi will do the honours but a flagpole has come up at the Kadamba bus stop. Apparently the flag pole which is 100 mtrs long will be LED lit 24×7 though we don’t know whether the bridge will be in darkness.
With mid-term polls coming up for Mandrem and Shiroda and Parliamentary elections due by June, the government is anxious to find a solution to the traffic jams on the southern highway.
As if the traffic jams were not bad enough, Buildercon, the company which won the Zuari tender, has asked for the closure of the stretch of road from Agacaim to Verna for an entire year. This would entail diversion of all traffic and not just heavy vehicles via Ponda.
After a lot of brainstorming Manohar Parrikar is reported to have come up with the bright idea of building two temporary stretches of roads along the Konkan railway line. But this would mean acquiring even more land from the farmers who are yet to be compensated for the land that they gave the Konkan railway to lay the track. There is stiff opposition to the government acquiring any more land to build temporary bypasses which the government claims will be restored to their original condition. This every citizen knows is a shallow promise given the experience of the government’s dig and destroy policy as dramatized by the Dona Paula – Miramar bypass road.
There is no guarantee that either the Zuari bridge will be completed within one year. But all that Parrikar and the BJP are concerned with is to reassure the people that they will not have to go around in circles to reach their destination in an election year. They perhaps don’t expect to win the Parliamentary elections anyway and can always pass the buck to the next government.
What we cannot understand is why the third Mandovi bridge should have been built at such a height and why the most famous engineering company in the country L&T did not advise them against the wind velocity. It is not even sure that small cars will be able to use the Mandovi bridge as the company warning is for barring all light vehicles. Maybe light vehicle manufacturers will provide parachutes to Goans so that they will come to no harm if they get blown off the bridge.
CHALLANS FOR EVERYONE?
And a few stray thoughts on the boast of the director general of police, Muktesh Chandra, that traffic challans have been issued to more than half the population of the state.
This follows the success of the DG’s Sentinel Scheme which encourages citizens to spy on each other. All would have been well if the identity of the Sentinels who were rewarded for double crossing their fellow citizens had been kept secret. But the DG was probably unaware that nothing is secret in Goa.
Unfortunately, the person who bore the consequences of the breach of security was a mobile retailer in Shiroda. Either because he was overzealous or for fun the expat mobile dealer allegedly reported 500 traffic violations to the police. When his identity was discovered or unwittingly disclosed, he was beaten up and his shop was vandalized. It is unlikely that anyone will now want to be part of the Sentinel game.
Dr Muktesh Chandra is an expert on cyber security and actually has a PhD on the subject. He has learnt that it is injurious to his future prospects to take corruption cases seriously.
Similarly the drug and liquor mafia are also too big to handle as is the taxi mafia. All of them represent huge vote banks which is why the DG is quiet even while Michael Lobo is screaming that the police are not stopping domestic tourists from drinking on the beach. The corruption cases against Digambar Kamat and Churchill Alemao, the Louis Berger case, have come to a standstill.
There is of course no question of actively pursuing the rape charges against Babush Monseratte since he is now become a protected species, being part of the Goa Forward. The irony is that while getting three MLAs elected using his money and muscle power, Babush himself does not have a constituency.
The DG seems to be unconcerned even over policemen assaulting ordinary citizens without any provocation. It is clear that with the ring master largely confined to bed or walking around with a tube emerging from his nose like an extended proboscis there is no one to control the animals in the circus.
VISHWAJIT IN TROUBLE
And a last stray thought on Vishwajit Rane having become the biggest casualty of the Rafale scam. It may be recalled that Congress president Rahul Gandhi has alleged that Narendra Modi deliberately favoured Anil Ambani of Reliance in the Rafale deal at the expense of the public sector HAL.
The latest revelation over Rafale is that the French government itself bought over 50 fighter aircraft from the Dessault company at 50% of the price paid by Narendra Modi. There is sufficient grounds for suspicion that there was dirty work at the crossroads. This is because even while a deal was pending for a large quantity of Rafale fighter aircraft, a new deal was struck directly by the prime minister’s of India and France. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar who should have been part of the delegation was in Goa eating xit kodi.
The allegations that Manohar Parrikar has all the Rafale files in his bedroom is entirely plausible. It is now increasingly clear that it is not Delhi which is compelling Parrikar to bear the cross of chief ministership but Parrikar himself who is unwilling to step down. Vishwajit Rane is entirely capable of not only conspiring against the ailing chief minister but indiscreetly discussing it with a wheeler deeler like Ajay Thakur. The audio clip that is circulating which I have listened to is that of Vishwajit taking to Ajay Thakur. Only Vishwajit did not realize it was a trap as Ajay Thakur is alleged to be an agent of Amit Shah planted in the Herald.
(P.S. The online version of ‘Triumph of Secularism’ is available on goanobserver.in courtesy Goa Publications. Those who want hard copies can approach us. )