STEADY: Slow and steady Michael Lobo wins the race, overcoming detractors and obstacles!
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Michael Lobo, with a lot of help from Babush Monserrate, destroyed the Congress party. For a Saturday following the week when Michael Lobo proved the moral of the fable that a slow and steady tortoise can also win the race against a hare. For a Saturday following the week when Chief Minister Pramod Sawant promised zero tolerance towards drugs. For a Saturday following the week when reports of vacancies for seats in engineering colleges in Goa are very misleading. For a Saturday following a week when technology continues to put our children in danger.
LOBO IN cabinet
And a few stray thoughts on the destruction of the Congress party by Michael Lobo with a helping hand from Babush Monserrate.
The Congress party to its own surprise won 17 of the 40 seats in the Legislative Assembly of Goa in the 2017 election. It lost one seat following the decision of Vishwajit Rane to resign his seat as a Congress MLA and re-contest as a BJP MLA. As against the strength of 16 seats the Congress lost two more seats with the defection of Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte and then 10 more seats with the mass defection of 10 Congress MLAs including the leader of the Congress Legislative Party, Chandrakant ‘Babu’ Kavlekar, to the BJP. This brought down the strength of the Congress party from 17 to just five seats in the Legislative Assembly.
Of the five MLAs in the Congress Legislative Party four are former chief ministers. This includes the longest serving Chief Minister Pratapsingh Rane, Ravi Naik, Luizinho Faleiro and Digambar Kamat. The only non-chief minister is Curtorim MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenço. This does not mean that the strength of the Opposition has been reduced to five. The Goa Forward Party has withdrawn support to the BJP, adding three more to the opposition.
In addition, two of the three MGP MLAs supporting the BJP, Babu Ajgaonkar and Deepak Pawaskar, merged with the BJP. Sudin Dhavalikar, who continues to remain an MGP MLA has made it clear that he will provide only issue-based support. Even the NCP MLA Churchill Alemao has decided to withdraw support to the BJP. As against the 13 seats that the BJP got in the 2017 election its numbers have now grown to 27. This includes the original 13 BJP MLAs, the five defectors — Vishwajit Rane, Dayanand Sopte and Subhash Shirodkar, Babu Ajgaonkar and Deepak Pawaskar and the 10 Congress MLAs, including Babush Monserrate who stood against the BJP and won the Panjim seat occupied by Parrikar.
Ironically, of the 27 saffron MLAs, 16 are Catholic. Which is contrary to the perception that the BJP is primarily a Hindu dominated party.
It was the late Manohar Parrikar who experimented with offering BJP tickets to Catholic MLAs in the 2007 elections. Parrikar even challenged the hegemony of the Catholics over Salcete taluka. Even the tallest of the Congress leaders like Luizinho Faleiro and Churchill Alemao, not to mention Francisco Sardinha, were defeated by BJP candidates.
There is a great deal of anger and resentment particularly in Salcete over Catholic MLAs defecting to the BJP. It is a calculated gamble on the part of the BJP. In the past Catholics MLAs have displayed a tendency to defect if they do not get a kodel in the Cabinet. Unlike the Congress there have been no instances of BJP MLAs defecting to other parties. By admitting 10 of the 15 Congress MLAs the BJP is risking being destroyed. The culture of indiscipline and greed which are part of the Congress culture may spread to the BJP.
And a few stray thoughts on Michael Lobo proving the truth of the proverb that the tortoise can also win the race.
In the original story the hare challenges the tortoise to a race. Given that the tortoise moves very slowly and the hare races ahead it was presumed that the tortoise would have no chance. The over confident hare decided to take a nap as it thought it was far ahead in the race and could take a break. Unfortunately for the hare it was complacent and did not notice the tortoise had crossed the finishing line.
Similar is the case with Michael Lobo. It was Michael Lobo who persuaded Vijai Sardesai and Goa Forward to align with the BJP led by Manohar Parrikar. He would have naturally expected to get a reward for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat for the BJP which had got only 13 seats in the assembly. When he did not get a berth in the Cabinet Lobo did not revolt or put pressure on Manohar Parrikar. In any case unfortunately for Lobo, Parrikar developed pancreatic cancer soon after becoming CM and Lobo decided to wait for him to improve.
When the late Manohar Parrikar died on March 17, 2019 Lobo thought that he would be included in the Cabinet. The trust that the BJP had in Lobo was demonstrated by the fact that he was made the acting speaker to swear in the new MLAs who won the by-elections after the defection of the two Congress MLAs, Dayanand Sopte and Subhash Shirodkar. The third seat for which bye-elections were held later was to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Parrikar.
The BJP faced a crisis when Deepak Dhavalikar, brother of Sudin Dhavalikar, refused to withdraw from the Shiroda seat. To teach Sudin a lesson Nitin Gadkari got two of the three MGP MLAs Babu Ajgoankar and Deepak Pauskar to merge with the BJP and dropped Sudin as PWD Minister. There was a reshuffle of the Cabinet as Babu Ajgaonkar and Deepak Pawaskar had to be accommodated in the Cabinet.
Lobo who was expecting a seat in the Cabinet for a long time was again bypassed. He refused the ceremonial post of Speaker offered to him. Lobo made it clear that he had earned a minister’s post and even confessed that he would like to be the chief minister. Lobo suggested to his friend Vijai Sardesai that one of his party MLAs should resign to make place for Lobo in the Cabinet. Either VIjai refused or the MLA concerned would not oblige Vijai.
It was to teach Vijai a lesson than Lobo sought the help of Babush to induce 10 of the 15 Congress MLAs, who constitute 2/3rd of the Congress Legislative Party, to join the BJP. By doing so Lobo made it possible for Pramod Sawant to drop the three Goa Forward ministers and the Independent MLA Rohan Khaunte from the Cabinet and created a vacancy for himself in the Pramod Sawant ministry. Among the other portfolios allotted to Lobo perhaps the most important is waste management because waste is the most serious problem that Goa is facing.
And a few stray thoughts on Home Minister Pramod Sawant promising zero tolerance towards drugs.
Sawant was responding to alarming claims made by the St Andre MLA Francis Silveira that even students were taking drugs. Silveira told the Assembly that he had informed the police of minors having a drug party in an apartment in his constituency. He alleges that the police had tipped off the students with the result that nobody was found when the raid was conducted. This is not surprising as the Narcotics Cell of the police is among the most corrupt. Most of the time the Narcotics Cell only catches users or small dealers and lets the big fish off. It may be recalled that the Israeli drug peddler’s girlfriend had released a video showing police officers selling drugs they had seized to drug peddlers. The video even allegedly showed the son of former Chief Minister Ravi Naik, Roy Naik, with alleged drug smuggling king, Atala.
Atala was brought back to India after his escape from prison but was acquitted by the court. The police also have been using drugs as an excuse to extort money from foreign tourists. It’s the common practice to stop the bikes of foreign tourists and demand bribes in dollars and pounds. If the tourists do not oblige drugs are planted on them and they are arrested. Unfortunately, the Central Narcotic Bureau is equally corrupt. An SP of the Central Narcotic Bureau was arrested by the CBI for taking huge bribes from drug peddlers.
There are primarily three major gangs of drug peddlers in Goa. North Goa, particularly the former constituency of Laxmikant Parsekar, Mandrem, is dominated by Russian drug lords. South Goa is considered the territory of the Israelis. The Nigerians and locals do the retail part of the drug business.
It is alleged that local drug sellers have the patronage of senior politicians. It may be recalled that there was an open public fight between the Nigerians and one of the local gangs on the Porvorim highway. The biggest danger is the spread of synthetic drugs. The date rape drug ketamine is freely available with chemists in the coastal belt. Ketamine is actually an animal anaesthetic which induces a trance-like sedated state, as though on anaesthesia, and can cause hallucinations and loss of memory. Which is why both locals and tourist goes to night clubs are warned not to leave their drinks, even if it is Coca Cola, unattended, as someone may drop a ketamine pill in it.
The worst part of drugs in Goa is that the bulk of it is sold by police involved. In theory except for a small sample all the drugs seized have to be burned, but when an inventory was done of the storage room where drugs were kept, 80% were missing.
Goans have been part of the drug trade for a long time and are used by the drug kings to supply drugs to both foreign and domestic tourists. In the process many of them unfortunately have started taking drugs themselves. It is quite possible that drugs have spread even to schools. The high rate of student dropouts, particularly in coastal areas, could be because of the use of drugs. Indeed, parents of students who get admission to BITS Pilani or IIT or even the Salgaocar hospitality management college, are very nervous about their children studying in Goa becoming both drug addicts or bevda.
And a few stray thoughts on reports claiming that many engineering seats are vacant in Goa. This is very misleading as the seats in all top colleges, including the government engineering colleges, have mostly been filled.
Understandably there is no demand for mining engineering after the suspension of mining. Even private colleges like the Padre Conceição College of Engineering (PCCE) run by the Pilar fathers and the Don Bosco-run Agnel Institute of Technology & Design have no problems filling up seats.
The only engineering college which nobody wants to study in is the Rayeshwar Institute of Engineering & Information Technology (RIEIT) at Shiroda run by Subhash Shirodkar. The former Congress MLA, who joined the BJP recently, runs the huge educational complex, which includes a Homeopathy and Ayurveda college, besides the engineering college. Standards are so poor in the engineering college that year after year less than 30% of the seats, even in electronics, are filled. Strangely, even though in the past seats have remained vacant, following his joining the BJP, the Rayeshwar Institute has received approval from the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to add two new streams, adding a total of 120 more seats.
There is a great demand for Homeopathy and Ayurveda graduates because corporates, hospitals and nursing homes appoint them as resident doctors. This despite the ban on alternative medicine doctors working in allopathic hospitals. The fact that the residents are Homeopath and Ayurveda doctors is dangerous to patients as the lives of patients in corporate hospitals depends not on consultants but on resident doctors and nurses, both of whom are substandard.
There is however some good news for medical students. Consequent to the new 10% quota for economically weaker sections, MBBS seats will go up by 30. There may be an increase of a hundred in post graduate diplomas and degrees when the superspecialty block is complete. There is great demand for all nursing courses excepting MSc nursing. Even diploma nurses get jobs easily in Goa and abroad.
And a last stray thought on kids increasingly getting addicted to social networks which may be even more dangerous than drugs.
There are increasing instances of kids as young as 12 and 14 playing games like Pokémon or ‘challenges’ like Blue Whale, which can lead to dangers in the read world. Parents may be unaware of growing addictions to gaming, gambling, drugs and porn. With 4G costs coming down thanks to Reliance almost everybody has a mobile and mobiles open doors to strangers that would otherwise never have been able to access the child.
Young women and children are at the greatest risk of sexual predators who make friends with them on the net and later molest them or even kill them. The recent case of Bianca Devins is a case in point. The 17-year-old teenager was murdered and her pictures posted on Instagram after a man she got to know through Instagram murdered her.
Parents need to be aware of what’s going on with their children. Drugs no longer need to be smoked or injected. They can be eaten in harmless looking brownies. Predators can seem ‘cool’ and rich and famous does not mean safe. Cases are going on against ‘financier’ Jeffery Epstein, and rapper R Kelly. Both are accused of allegedly sexually abusing hundreds of minors. R Kelly even recorded and shared sex tapes with these minors.
Phones usage and access is a double edged sword. Government employees spend more time on their smartphones than their work as dramatised by a recent ad. Perhaps the solution would be for people in the queue to become sentinels and take a photograph of any time wasting babu.