MONSERRATE: The strong man of Taleigao who decided to contest the Panjim seat, has got the approval of Congress President Rahul Gandhi to contest on the Congress ticket
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when it appeared that when the results are announced the biggest winner would be the EVM machine. For a Saturday following the week when the High Court issued a notice to the MGP on the merger of Babu Ajgaonkar and Deepak Pawaskar with the BJP. For a Saturday following the week when it appeared that the Election Commission has more confidence in the Kerala police than the Goa police. For a Saturday following the week when Babush was given the Congress ticket for the by-elections to the Panjim Assembly seat. For a Saturday following the week when for the first time in the history of the country the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was charged with sexual molestation of a lady clerk working at his home office. For a Saturday following the week when the bomb blasts in Sri Lanka for two days in a row have scared both hotels and churches in Goa.
And a few stray thoughts on the likely winner of the elections to the two Lok Sabha seats and the three by-elections to Mandrem, Mapusa and Shiroda, finally being the EVM machine.
There was much greater enthusiasm for the by-elections to the three Assembly seats than for the Lok Sabha. While the turn out for the Lok Sabha seats ranged between 74% and 76%, in the case of the Assembly seats, the turnout was much higher at 82.65%.
Clearly while the three main contenders, the BJP, Congress and AAP, did make an effort to get their supporters out, the stiffest competition was in the Assembly seats, where it was a question of “khoon ke badle khoon”. The Congress was determined to defeat the two defectors, Subhash Shirodkar of Shiroda and Dayanand Sopte of Mandrem, who had been elected on the Congress ticket in the 2017 election.
In Shiroda the battle was intense as Deepak Dhavalikar, brother of Sudin Dhavalikar, took on Subhash Shirodkar. Deepak has to win, as Sudin holds him responsible for the breakdown of the alliance between the BJP and MGP. Sudin reportedly was keen to merge the MGP with a BJP, in return for being appointed deputy CM. However the condition was that MGP candidates, particularly Deepak Dhavalikar, would not contest against the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections and the by-elections.
Deepak, who lost in the last election, is desperate for the kodel and does not care about either his brother or the MGP. In a face-saving gesture, the MGP has decided to withdraw support to the BJP. Which is a token gesture as they have already split with the MGP extending support to the Congress not only in the Lok Sabha election but also in Mandrem and Mapusa.
Particularly in North Goa, where the MGP has a very strong base, this is to the advantage of Girish Chodankar. I would have been confident of the victory of Girish Chodankar except for the fact that the Congress workers are a lazy lot and did not seem to do much work, either at the HQ or at the ground level.
Except for the Youth Congress, the party does not have active cadre, let alone booth level managers. The BJP has a very good system of booth level management who unfortunately are not paid, as they were part of the RSS which broke away from the BJP Goa. When I visited the Congress HQ on polling day I found them all sitting with their laptops without any election spirit. Maybe they need the other spirit to get them moving.
The lowest percentage of polling was in Benaulim, the strong hold of Churchill Alemao, while the highest percentage was in Mandrem. Clearly Churchill’s supporters did not vote because nobody gave his daughter Valanka a ticket. In Mandrem voting was high because apart from the supporters of the candidates themselves, Parsekar must have mobilised all his supporters against the defector Dayanand Sopte.
There have been complaints against EVMs from many places in Goa — not only Siolim and Cuncolim. Official reports are that 11 control units and 35 VVPAT machines did not function. As in other parts in the country, the EVMs reportedly allotted the vote to the BJP even if you voted for the Congress.
There is a saying in Hindi “jiski lathi uski bhais”. He who owns the stick, owns the buffalo. We hope the 2017 Lok Sabha election does not turn out to be a similar case where the controller of the EC will be the winner. It seems like Modi has found a much simpler method of winning the election. He does not have to declare dictatorship but merely convert the EC into a caged parrot.
And a few stray thoughts on the HC serving a notice to the MGP and the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
The notice concerns the midnight merger of Babu Ajgaonkar and Deepak Pawaskar with the BJP. In the normal course, members of a Legislative party cannot join another party or merge with it without resigning from their original party. In earlier cases decided by the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court, MLAs have been disqualified for not taking the approval of the organisational wing of the party. In this case also it would appear that the two MGP MLAs, who were too much in a hurry to join the BJP, did not follow the rules. Similarly, acting speaker Michael Lobo should have checked whether they had resigned from the primary membership of the MGP.
The BJP itself had claimed that Filip Neri who did not vote for them in 2006 was a primary member of the BJP. It later turned out that Satish Dhond had allegedly forged the signature of Filip Neri, the former Cuncolim MLA.
If the two MLAs who are now minister for tourism and PWD respectively are disqualified it would be a major setback for the BJP. If in addition, the BJP loses the by-election in four constituencies, including Panjim, it will be reduced to a minority with its strength falling by seven. Everything is dependent on Vijai Sardesai and his group of six, and whom they choose to support.
BABUSH BACK TO CONGRESS
And a few stray thoughts on Babush getting a ticket for the Panjim Assembly by-election.
Babush Monserrate, who has the support of five MLAs — Tony Fernandes from Santa Cruz, Francis Silveira from St Andre, Isadore Fernandes from Canacona, Pandurang Madkaikar from Cumbarjua and wife Jennifer from Taleigao — got the approval of the Congress President Rahul Gandhi to contest the Panjim elections with a Congress ticket.
Babush had recently quit the Goa Forward, lowering Vijai Sardesai’s bargaining strength. If Babush wins the by-election, he will be in a position to influence a significant chunk of the MLAs, something that can only aid the Congress.
EC & the Goa police
And a few stray thoughts on the EC not having much faith in the Goa police.
The police in Goa have become highly politicised. When Parrikar was alive, cops in Goa were called the Parrikar police, except in the case of Sattari taluka, where they were known as Babas’ (Vishwajit’s) men.
The role of the police is very important in an election to prevent bogus voting and other illegalities. In states like Bihar and UP there are cases where EVM machines are taken away by goons hired by candidates.
The reason why the results may come out only on May 23 although the polling process started on April 11 is because of the EC’s lack of faith in the local police in any state. This is why the first step taken when elections are announced and the code of conduct is announced is the transfer of police officers, including district SPs.
This is why Kerala police were brought to Goa to ensure that the local police did not rig the elections in favour of their MLAs or MPs.
In the case of Kolkata, attempts were made to transfer the DG of police against whom the CBI conducted raids. To ensure that the polls are free and fair, and local police do not interfere in ‘fixing’ the polls, the Central Reserve Police (CRP) are brought from other states.
There is shortage in the number of CRP personnel. If all the elections in all the States are held on a same day, there will be not be enough CRP to provide security to election officials. Hence, elections are held in phases, so that the CRP has enough time to move from one state to another after elections are over in a particular state.
There are not many complications in the case of Goa because it is one day poll. Things are much more difficult in States like UP, which sends 80 MPs to Parliament, where polling is spread over five or six phases.
For instance, while the election in Lucknow is already over, the polling in Varanasi, Narendra Modi’s constituency, is yet to start. It is speculated that Priyanka Gandhi may take on Narendra Modi in Varanasi.
GOGOI IN TROUBLE
And a few stray thoughts on the charges made by 36-year-old lady working at the home office of the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, of sexual molestation.
This is the first time a charge of sexual misconduct has been made against the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. While such charges may or may not be politically motivated, the Chief Justice should have acted in a fair manner. Caesar’s wife should not only be above suspicion, but should be seen to be above suspicion. Which means that the Chief Justice of the SC, who had led the revolt against his predecessor, CJ Dipak Mishra, for being an agent of the BJP and manipulating the roster to favour them, should takes pains to follow all proper procedures even if innocent.
It is an unfortunate practice in the judiciary that there is a lot of match fixing. This is called bench hunting by the legal fraternity. What this means is that for instance, if it is a case of ecology, the accused will ensure it will come up before an industry friendly judge. This is sometimes done by seeking adjournments, so that it will not come up before a hostile judge. Traditionally, it is the collegium which decides which bench and which judge will hear a case. The former Chief Justice insisted that he was the master of the rooster, which meant that it was not the collegium (comprising the six senior-most judges) but he alone who would decide who would hear which case. An angry Ranjan Gogoi took the unprecedented step of holding a press conference against CJ Mishra.
For a man who has a reputation of being a clean judge, unfortunately Gogoi did not act wisely on the charge of molestation. Gogoi, perhaps in panic, immediately convened a meeting of a three judge panel, headed by him, to hear the charges.
It is a principle of natural justice, and indeed common sense, that an accused cannot judge his own case. The situation was complicated by the claim of an SC lawyer that the molestation charge was a conspiracy to remove the judge or tie his hands before important judgments which might affect the elections. The judgment on the Rafale case and the Ayodhya temple, not to mention the cases by the banks against Anil Ambani and Subhash Chandra of Zee, are all expected to come up within the next ten days.
Whatever may be the case, Gogoi should not have made comments on a case in which he is accused. Though the Bar Association supported him along with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, a lawyer himself, female lawyers insisted that the due process and the POSH act should be followed.
The POSH act which was passed at the encouragement of the Supreme Court stands for Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH). This specifies that the case must be referred to the internal tribunal of the organisation — in this case the Supreme Court. The SC has a committee headed by a female judge, Indu Malhotra, as 66% of the employees of the SC are women.
Gogoi’s colleagues were also against his presiding over the bench which will enquire over the charges of sexual misconduct. Finally after a meeting of the full bench consisting of 27 judges a new bench was formed without Gogoi to examine the case.
The irony is that while the Supreme Court has the right to examine any complaint against anybody, including the president and the PM, there is no provision in the law on how to deal with charges under POSH against the Chief Justice.
Coming as it does in the middle of the elections, there are many wild claims including that the charges are a conspiracy by Dawood Ibrahim against Narendra Modi.
IMPACT OF SRI LANKA TERROR
And a last stray thought on the impact of the terror attacks in Sri Lanka on churches and hotels in Goa.
Goa is on high alert with armed soldiers guarding all major churches in Goa, including the Mary Immaculate Church and the Old Goa complex which includes the Bom Jesus Basilica which contains the relics of Francis Xavier.
Ironically, India had warned Sri Lanka of the attacks which the militants claim are retaliation for the attacks on a mosque in New Zealand.
What surprises me is the huge increase in security in hotels. After a round of the polling booths and the EC office I went to a 5-star hotel we know very well and have visited very often. Normally they never used to check our car or our hand bags. On Tuesday it was different, even though the guards were the same. Forget about making us open the dickey, they even asked us to open the bonnet. Then a long stick with a mirror was pushed under the car to see if there is a bomb. For the first time I was asked to open my pouch where I keep my mobile, credit cards etc.
We were again checked at the entrance to the restaurant which was empty anyway, because being polling day there was no daru. And if there’s no daru, guests don’t visit 5-star hotels. In fact over 50% of the staff had been given leave as the hotel was empty. As far as we know the rules were enforced very strictly this time in view of the Lanka blast.