SECURITY: With a bitter battle between the Congress candidate and the BJP, led by its organizing secretary Satish Dhond, the election authorities are taking no chances, with the supervision entrusted to the Central Reserve Police Force
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Panjim was all set to vote for a substitute for Manohar Parrikar. For a Saturday following the week when the traffic jams at the Cortalim and Agacaim junction continued, dramatising a failure of administration. For a Saturday following the week when the water situation has reached crises point with no sign of rains in sight. For a Saturday following the week when most of the jobs even in the private sector in the capital city are occupied by migrants. For a Saturday following the week when there has been a huge slide in the economy reflecting the uncertainty of who will form the next government. For a Saturday following the week when there is both fear and anxiety on the BJP returning to power at the Centre.
PANJIM POLLS TOMORROW
And a few stray thoughts on polling that is expected to take place tomorrow, Sunday, for the Panjim Assembly seat which was vacant following the death of the late Manohar Parrikar.
Panjim voters have had to march to the polls almost five times in the last year. In the 2017 Assembly election Ponjekars had voted for Manohar Parrikar as their MLA. Babush did not contest the election and in return Parrikar did not put up a rival panel against the Taleigao boss in the CCP election.
Ponjekars had to go to the polls again when, early in his third term as Chief Minister, Parrikar was summoned to Delhi to become the defence minister after the BJP won the 2014 Parliamentary poll. Parrikar nominated his chamcha Sidharth Kuncalienker to contest on his behalf. Sidharth, with Parrikar campaigning for him, won the election by a narrow margin.
After the 2017 election Parrikar returned to Goa as the CM. Within a year of hijacking the mandate from the Congress, Parrikar developed pancreatic cancer. Parrikar died on March 18, 2019. Consequently the Panjim Assembly seat was vacant again.
Senior BJP leaders were in favour of Utpal Parrikar, eldest son of late Manohar Parrikar, to be the candidate. It was almost decided that Utpal would continue the legacy of his father. Subhash Velingkar, the RSS chief who had been the mentor of Parrikar and other senior BJP leaders, suddenly decided that only he could fit the shoes of Manohar Parrikar. The BJP leaders were aware that even after Velingkar quit the RSS over 90% of the cadres remained loyal to him. Velingkar also had the advantage of being a long term resident of Panjim with an ancestral house close to the Mahalaxmi temple. He was part of the Dev waddo gang which included industrialist Anil Counto and several other prominent Saraswat families of Goa.
In contrast, Sidharth, like Parrikar, is an outsider having grown up in Cumbarjua where his father was an MLA. Valmiki is also a Panjim boy practicing as a civil engineer with a father who was a staunch Konkaniwadi. So much so, three of the four main candidates contesting the Panjim by-elections are Saraswats, which might create a problem for the 4,000 strong Panjim Saraswat community though it is presumed that most of them will vote for Subhash Velingkar. The support that Subhash Velingkar enjoys was dramatized at the mega rally that he held in Tuesday.
Babush has always wanted to contest the Panjim Assembly seat as part of his larger plan to take over all the Assembly seats in Tiswadi. Babush has already demonstrated that he can win from any constituency that he contests. He entered politics by winning the Taleigao seat twice in succession. Babush then surrendered Taleigao to his wife Jennifer and shifted to St Cruz. In spite of stiff competition from Dinar Tarkar and Rudolf Fernandes, Babush won the seat.
In the 2017 election Babush managed to get Congress tickets for his close supporters Tony Fernandes in St Cruz and Agnel Silveira in St Andre, both of whom won the election. The Cumbarjua seat went to another close friend, Pandurang Madkaikar, whose brother is now the mayor of Panjim. The only Tiswadi seat left to conquer was Panjim. In the 2018 by-election Babush contested against Parrikar but lost by a narrow margin, primarily because AAP managed to get more than 2,000 votes.
For Babush the conquest of Panjim seat is part of his larger desire to not just control Tiswadi but Panjim, which is why the battle between the BJP and the Congress is so bitter. The BJP knows that if Babush gets elected they will not only lose the capital city but also the State government which they hijacked after the 2017 election even though they were in a minority.
Goa IN CRISIS
And a few stray thoughts on the total breakdown of administration in the state.
The biggest crisis facing the state is waste disposal. Though Panjim was the first to start door-to-door collection of segregated garbage it has no place even to dump it. The real state lobby headed by Pandurang Madkaikar sabotaged the setting up of the waste treatment plant at Bainguinim.
Madkaikar also instigated the church to stall the project on the grounds that it affects the heritage monuments of Old Goa. So even though the government had paid for the land at Bainguinim for the waste management plant Parrikar did not have the will to take on the opposition from the St Cruz and Old Goa MLAs.
In Margao, the Sonsodo garbage which was being run by Formento Green, a part of the Timblo Group, has collapsed. This happened on the eve of the monsoons posing a threat of garbage choking the drains in Margao. Similarly, there are problems with the state-of-the-art Saligao garbage treatment plant. The Saligao waste treatment plant was chosen after a team of senior minister and officials toured the whole of Europe to find the best technology to treat garbage.
The problem is that originally it was meant only to treat the garbage of Saligao and Calangute village. Like Curca in the past, it was overloaded with the entire garbage of North Goa, including Panjim. Doubts were also expressed about the quality of the technology and its ability to deal with both dry and wet waste. The Saligao plant on which crores were spent has almost broken down, with the result that from the best beach tourist destination, Goa has become a garbage tourist destination.
Until two months ago the major problem that cars and two-wheelers faced were traffic jams because of the new Mandovi bridge. Now the crisis is because of the Zuari bridge. The Central government which is building the Zuari bridge has blocked half the road. Because of the use of heavy machinery the condition of the road is in terrible shape. The police, prompt in giving challans to two-wheeler riders, are not able to control the traffic. So much so, Goa has been divided into south and north Goa. It is almost impossible for the people of north Goa to go to south Goa unless they choose to go via Ponda. There are many cases of north Goa residents missing their flights because of the traffic jams.
And a few stray thoughts on the announcement by the MeT Department that the monsoon will arrive late.
According to forecasts the monsoon which used to hit Kerala by the beginning of June is now expected to arrive on June 10. Normally, the monsoon travels to Goa about four days after it hits Kerala. So do not expect the rains to start in Goa before June 10.
This will leave Goa not just thirsty but totally dry. Already the water levels at Opa are half the minimum required. Water supply is being maintained by tapping the water from mining pits. Water levels in the other reservoirs like Selaulim, Anjuna are also very low.
Panjim is the biggest consumer of water in the last decade, having the largest number of swimming pools. The coming up of huge gated colonies has shot up demands for water. In fact, those who stay in the gated colonies in Caranzalem, have to spend an average of `3,000 a month for water supply through tankers.
One of the major problems is the breakdown of power at the pumping stations. Despite orders from the District Magistrate. Jio and the Smart City authorities continue to dig up roads, damaging water pipes.
Unfortunately, though Goa gets more than adequate rain fall, much of the water flows uselessly into the sea instead of being harvested. Unlike in other states no efforts have been made for rain water harvesting in the state. Goa should learn a lesson from former Portugal colony Diu, where every home has a water tank on the roof to collect rainwater. There is also tremendous waste of water in Panjim. NIO is the only large organisation which recycles waste water. The water that is used for having a bath or even flushing the loo is treated and re-used for non-drinking purposes.
There are doubts whether the water supplied by the PWD for less than two hours a day is fit for drinking. Most of those who can afford it, depend on bottles of so-called ‘mineral’ water. The candidates contesting the Panjim by-election must be forced to guarantee water for at least eight hours a days, as the goal of 24 hours water every day will not be achieved even by 2050. It would be preferable if the Smart City project concentrated on necessities rather than decoration and frills.
And a few stray thoughts on the job situation in Goa and particularly in Panjim.
Panjim has the HQ of a number of large private business houses like the Dempos and Sesa Goa besides all the public sector corporations. Panjim has more restaurants and hotels than Margao or Mapusa. Panjim because of the casinos offers at least 10 to 15,000 jobs. There are many startups coming up in Panjim. There is no shortage of job opportunities in Panjim. This is dramatised by the fact that every migrant who comes to the city manages to get a job immediately. The minimum wage for unskilled labour is as high as `600 a day which adds up to 18,000 per month. Yet despite the existence of so many shops, restaurants, hotels and private sector officers, the young people of Panjim find it impossible to get jobs.
Ironically, even the Nepalis who belong to another country are preferred by the casino owners than locals. In fact, it is people from the Northeast who dominate the casinos, beauty parlours and massage centres in Panjim.
Every MLA tries his best to get government jobs for people from his constituency. A large number of the class 4 staff in the GMC are from Vishwajit Rane’s constituency. Similarly, the majority of the employees of the PWD are from the Dhavalikar constituency. But Manohar Parrikar did not do anything to provide government jobs to the youth of Panjim.
While all the candidates speak of employment, Babush is the only one of the four main candidates in the election being held tomorrow who has promised both government and private jobs for the youth of Panjim. The irony is that Panjim has the largest training facilities for jobs, with the latest to join institutions which are job-oriented being the fashion technology courses introduced by Mustifund.
And a few stray thoughts on the collapse of the national economy.
This is best reflected in the fact that during the last few months there has been a stiff fall in the demand for not only cars but even two-wheelers.
Until last year the average growth in the sale of auto mobiles and two-wheelers was as high as 20% in Goa. Interestingly, there was a big demand for up-market cars and bikes. Mercedes Benz considers Goa among its largest markets and their new attraction is the Fortuner. There are more two-wheelers in Goa than the total population of the State.
But because of demonetization and GST there has been a sharp drop in purchasing power. The slowdown in the purchase of vehicles may be also because the banks are not very co-operative in granting loans because of high defaults.
Normally in Goa, election time used to see a big leap in the demand for two-wheelers, with many politicians, particularly Babush, gifting them to close supporters. This time I have not heard of any mass order for two-wheelers.
The index of industry production has come down to 0.1% as compared to 5% last year. The stock market has been falling continuously for the last ten days. Petroleum prices are bound to shoot up because of the terror attack on the Gulf oil tankers forcing Saudi Arabia to close down its main pumping station. On the eve of the election we have only bad days and no sign of any achhe din.
And a last stray thought on the results of the Parliamentary election.
Unlike in 2014 there is no Modi wave. There are not even any Modi clouds with the country in the grip of a heat wave. Modi has made himself a laughing stock by his remarks that he knows more about weather and fighter aircraft than the professionals who run the air force.
With the economy in terrible shape Modi has tried to project himself as the defender of the country. The man with the 56-inch chest is the only one who can defend the country against terror attacks from Pakistan. But given his recent statements even the armed forces have lost faith in him.
The general belief supported by informal opinion polls is that the BJP will get less than 200 seats which is not even a simple majority in Parliament.
The Mahaghatbandhan will certainly affect the BJP tally in UP where it got all 80 seats last year. Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, which had turned totally saffron, now have Congress governments. In Bihar and MP the Opposition combine is bound to score over the BJP. Mamta will not yield any ground to Modi and the south of course as usual will stick to the regional parties and will reject both the Congress and the BJP. Perhaps it is time to say Har Har Mahadev, instead of jai Shri Ram or Vande Mantaram.