CORRUPT: There are number of charges against the BJP candidate Sidharth Kuncalienker of demanding kick-backs when he was vice-chairman of GSIDC and chairman of EDC. Long before he died, Parrikar had dropped him from his inner circle because he misused Parrikar’s name
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
Until Friday, Utpal Parrikar was the preferred candidate of the BJP. They changed their mind when Subhash Velingkar decided to contest as they knew that BJP supporters would back Velingkar and not Utpal. The bali ka bakra is Sidharth Kuncalienker, who is foolish enough to believe that he is the chosen one to carry on Parrikar’s legacy. Babush will be the main beneficiary of the split in the RSS vote. With his history of developing his constituency and assisting the migrant poor, he has a strong following rooting for him
Until Friday, April 26, 2019, both the BJP high command and BJP low command had decided to give the ticket for the Panjim Assembly seat to Utpal Parrikar — eldest son of Manohar Parrikar.
The logic was that the son, who like the father has an engineering degree from abroad, and has an industrial unit in the Verna Industrial Estate, would be able to continue the legacy of the late Manohar Parrikar. While Utpal was reluctant initially, he later seemed keen to get the ticket. Either because of emotional attachment to Panjim, where he has campaigned for his father, or because he too has caught the political virus.
The question of fielding Utpal came up only when Babush Monserrate announced that he would contest the Panjim Assembly seat. Senior BJP leadership, which initially considered Sidharth Kuncalienker, decided that he would not be able to challenge Babush Monserrate even though he had defeated the Taleigao don by a small margin in the last election. Taking on Babush, particularly as a Congress MLA, was seen as being beyond the capacity of Sidharth Kuncalienker.
THE VELINGKAR THREAT
Everything changed when former RSS chief Subhash Velingkar entered the fray. It was on Friday, April 26, that Subhash Velingkar, who was the head of the RSS for over 40 years and was responsible for bringing Parrikar senior into politics and building the BJP, announced that the Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM) would contest the Panjim by-election.
Velingkar, perhaps justifiably, claimed that only he could fill the BJP sandals of Parrikar in the Panjim constituency. Which is true because Velingkar, as the head of the RSS, is the master of booth management. Velingkar is the person who set up booth-wise committees which not only ensure that the candidate was introduced to the voter but also ensured the voter came to the polling booth on polling day.
Unfortunately for the BJP, Velingkar fell out with Parrikar on the language issue. Parrikar was part of the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM) which felt strongly that no grants should be given to any English medium primary schools. As principal of Vidya Prabodhini High School he was further embarrassed as he discovered that the special grants approved by Manohar Parrikar for primary English medium schools were only for Catholic schools. Since Parrikar did not yield to his ultimatum, Velingkar broke away from the RSS and set up his own organisation. The ground reality is that the BJP performed very poorly in their 2017 election because most of the RSS cadre boycotted the election following the break between Parrikar and Velingkar.
When Velingkar, while announcing his decision to contest the Panjim seat, asserted that only he could carry on the legacy of Parrikar, the BJP high command panicked and decided that it would be very embarrassing if Utpal lost to Babush. Which was likely, considering that the BJP vote will be split in favour of Velingkar. Knowing that they had no chance of winning the seats they decided to make Sidharth the bali ka bakra. And the fool thinks that the BJP has given him an opportunity to carry on the legacy of his mentor Manohar Parrikar.
Which brings us to the critical question: What is the legacy of Manohar Parrikar? The answer in one word would be bridges. The only things that Manohar Parrikar was interested in was huge bridges and big events. The Mandovi already had two bridges connecting Panjim to Porvorim when Manohar Parrikar became the CM yet again in 2012. In spite of that, Manohar Parrikar insisted on building a third bridge in the sky over the Mandovi. A bridge so high that fearing that wind would blow off two wheelers and pedestrians, they are barred.
Parrikar is gone but his bridges continue to cause enormous problems for the aam aadmi and traffic jams still occur. The new bridge over the Zuari, being built by the National Highway Authority, has created so many blockages that very often it takes five hours to reach Margao.
Just last week many people had to miss their flights because of accidents at Zuari bridge construction site. The contractors in fact demanded that the road from Agacaim to Cortalim be closed for one year. Farmers have objected to the proposals for an alternate road for which they will have to sacrifice more of their land.
PARRIKAR’S LEGACY OF NEGLECT
But with the Panjim by-elections coming up, let us focus on Panjim and Parrikar’s legacy in Panjim. Through the three terms he was chief minister, Parrikar and the BJP did nothing for Panjim. The biggest problem that the city of Panjim has faces is the St Inez creek which begins at the Nagali Hills and flows into the sea near the sports complex. A lot of money has been spent on attempting to clean the creek.
Former CCP mayor Surendra Furtado, who was chairperson of the GSIDC, even went boating in the St Inez creek to prove that all the obstructions had been removed. He bought a fancy weed cutting machine mounted on a boat but had a less-than-happy experience. He took a big party of journalists to show what he had done and the overloaded boat sunk with Surendra Furtado and all the others almost drowning in the dirty waters of the creek which has become a grand nullah.
The problem with the St Inez nullah is that any amount of cleaning is useless unless the encroachments are removed. This, no politician will do, because areas like Camra bhat and Peters bhat are huge vote banks. In fact while Parrikar was sick the situation became even worse with several builders encroaching on the banks of the nullah.
Recently, the Anil Counte Alcon group even built a wall in the middle of the nullah to prevent water from coming into their gated colony. In a land scarce city, the banks of the nullah which house many industrial houses, fancy restaurants and hotels, is the latest target of land sharks.
Parrikar did nothing to ease the traffic congestion in Panjim city. Parrikar did nothing to stop his TCP minister from converting green Panjim into a concrete jungle and overloading the existing infrastructure.
Parrikar is guilty of destroying the Bandodkar football stadium and the old Panjim municipal market to build the Inox multiplex for IFFI. IFFI may be welcome, but surely not in the middle of a crowded city.
Parrikar deliberately neglected Goa University as he had no real respect for education. Goa University’s rank has sunk to 93 on the list of 100 top universities in the country.
Parrikar also created bitterness between Hindus and even Romi and Devanagari Catholics by submitting to the Bishops and legalising grants exclusively to Church-run English medium primary schools in return for them influencing Catholic voters to vote for the BJP.
Valmiki Naik is contesting again as the AAP candidate for Panjim.
In 2017 there was a lot of enthusiasm and expectation about AAP. Leading citizens of Goa including Dr Oscar Rebello and Elvis Gomes extended support to AAP. Then of course there was Baba Vaghela who runs the Ram Dev outlet in Caranzalem. In fact it was Baba Vaghela who dominated AAP and played a major role in selection of candidate. Whenever Kejriwal came to Goa he stayed in Vaghela’s apartment in Caranzalem. Anand Madgaonkar is the treasurer of AAP.
The party had the goodwill of the middle class across communal lines for its outstanding performance in Delhi. Arvind Kejriwal and other senior leaders of the party visited Goa attended public meetings and held press conferences. The AAP’s public meetings were well attended. You could see AAP volunteers with their white caps everywhere. They may not have won any seats, but they definitely made their presence felt. Unfortunately the AAP wave remained confined to the upper middle class. AAP could not, or did not, connect with the Bahujan Samaj and the migrant vote banks.
Admittedly AAP has done some very good work in Dehi particularly in the field of education and medical care by starting mohala clinic. AAP has not been able to emulate the development it carried out in Delhi as it was not in office, but worse there was no awareness in Goa of the steps that Kejriwal had taken. The only news published in Goa was about Kejriwals constant battle with the Central government. Though Delhi is a state it still functions like a Union Territory with the Lt Governor calling the shots. Kejriwal behaves more like the leader of the Opposition than the chief minister even though his party has almost 100% majority in the Assembly.
Valmiki Naik is highly educated, having studied Engineering abroad. He is a son of a highly respected civil engineer who played a major role in the Konkani movement. The then Congress government had declared section 144 around the secretariat which was at Adil Shah Palace. His father jumped from a boat in the Mandovi river and swam to the secretariat to protest for Konkani mai. The son is as dedicated to the development of Goa as the father. But he is either shy or arrogant. He does not know how to mix with ordinary people. He is not a mass leader. His Konkani is not good enough to be a good public speaker.
Valmiki may have decided to contest the Panjim by-election scheduled for May 21. Unfortunately the support for AAP has diminished. They were seen as a Delhi party because of the white topis (caps) they used to wear. Now they have switched to blue caps. This has led to even more confusion and people like Dr Rebello do not seem to be interested in AAP any longer.
I don’t know if Valmiki has much chance against Babush or even Velingkar. I believe the main battle in Panjim is now between Subhash Velingkar of the GSM and Babush Monserrate. Coincidentally or otherwise, all the four main candidates, except for Babush, are Saraswat Brahmins.
BABUSH & DEVELOPMENT
Unlike Parrikar, Babush is not highly educated; however he seems to value education. Although Babush has completed only his 10th standard, it does not prevent him from calling himself the principal of St Michael High School that he owns.
Babush has several criminal cases pending against him and even more rumours surrounding him. About a decade ago he, his wife and supporters, stormed the Panjim police station to set free some goons that the police had arrested. Babush’s supporters even injured policewomen guarding the police station. Babush is accused of having run a prostitution racket in the Kamat complex opposite Dhempe College in the past and both Babush and his son have even been accused of rape. Not surprisingly, the reaction of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant is that the cases against Babush should be revived.
However, the fact remain the Babush has done more for the development of his historical constituency Taleigao than any other MLA. It was Babush who broadened the roads in Taleigao. Although it may have been for the benefit of the builders, the broad roads make Taleigao one of the easiest places to commute from. It was Babush who built the Taleigao Community Centre which has proved to be a popular location for events for locals who don’t want to go all the way to places in Panjim. It was Babush who built the nana-nani park at Caranzalem. It was Babush who had helped Panjim by donating a space for dumping garbage and building management.
Babush is not a saint. If elected to the Panjim Assembly seat he will probably convert Panjim into a city of sky scrapers taking advantage of the relaxation in the floor area which permits buildings of 12 and 15 storeys. But whatever his faults, Babush is a man of action. If he promises something he will get it done by hook or by crook.
Also, what people do not realized or appreciate is that Babush looks after his voters. It is not the rich and powerful, or bold and beautiful who vote for Babush. His vote bank consists of tribals and migrant labourers. He has built up the image of a Robin Hood who robs the rich and gives to the poor. For a long time Babush used to pay for the education of children who could not pay fees in schools like Auxilium. On every Tuesday there was a darbar where anyone in need who wanted money for senior citizens abandoned by their children was given money. Babush did not advertise this fact. But those whom he helped, remain faithful to him, which is why they elect him, and later his wife Jennifer, again and again. Although some say he was angry that the margin of votes his wife got was much lower than his.
Of the three candidates contesting the Panjim by-elections, the most respectable is certainly Subhash Velingkar. And the most arrogant and corrupt is not Babush, but Sidharth Kuncalienker. The most practical who will get things done, whether he has the support of the government or not, is Babush Monserrate. The better-half says she will vote for him if he pledges to clean up the St Inez creek. With or without her vote we believe that he will achieve his ambition of representing Panjim in the Assembly and may even become the chief minister. He already has half-a-dozen MLAs with him. If he wins he will be king-maker, if not king.