DOUBLE CROSS: The Karnataka government has already started diverting water from the Mhadei river to the Malaprabha basin to meet the needs of sugarcane cultivation
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the IFFI bus with Amitabh Bachchan as the driver and Rajinikanth as the conductor took off on Wednesday at 3 pm. For a Saturday following the week when Prakash Javadekar the Union Minister for Waterways double-crossed both Goa and Pramod Sawant. For a Saturday following the week when the Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan (MBA) supporters were getting ready for a massive strike and may even interrupt IFFI. For a Saturday following the week when there was a corruption competition between Pramod Sawant and Vijai Sardesai. For a Saturday following the week when Digambar Kamat the Congress President has started getting very active targeting Vijai Sardesai.
AMITABH AT IFFI
And a few stray thoughts on the Golden Jubilee of the International Film Festival of India which was inaugurated on Wednesday 20, 2019, by Amitabh Bachchan.
The choice of Amitabh Bachchan might seem strange since he was very close to the Gandhi family, particularly Rajiv Gandhi. In fact, Amitabh Bachchan was persuaded to contest on the Congress ticket and won the Allahabad Parliamentary seat.
Following differences with the Congress, for a long time Amitabh was close to the Samajwadi Party led by Mulayam Singh Yadav. It is believed that when Amitabh was passing through a very severe financial crises it was Sahara India chief Subrata Roy, an associate of Amar Singh, and confidant of Yadav, who helped him.
With the BJP increasingly victimizing writers and artists who are opposed to it, Amitabh has wisely decided to convert to the saffron Parivar. This is the 3rd time that Amitabh Bachchan has inaugurated IFFI. The Centre and the Directorate of Film Festivals has always been conscious of keeping South India happy as Tollywood makes much more films than Hollywood — which is why, inevitably, a Tamil superstar is given a significant role at the inaugural function.
When it comes to Tollywood there can be no other substitute for Rajinikanth, the superstar who started life as a bus conductor in Bangalore.
On the eve of the inauguration of IFFI, I was visited by Dorothy who was the daughter of the driver of the bus of which Rajinikanth was a conductor. In true Bangalore lumpen-style Rajinikanth attracted attention to himself by several gimmicks such as throwing a cigarette up and catching it with his mouth. This particular act of his is his signature act and is repeated in every Rajinikanth film.
Among the most memorable of the Rajinikanth films “Kaala” which exposes the attempts of builders and politicians to make money under the excuse of re-development of Dharavi. Dharavi tells the politicians and builders that the land (Dharavi) belongs to the people and he will not let anything be done without their permission.
The BJP may also be cultivating Rajinikanth to persuade him to either join the party or set up his own party with whom they can have an alliance. The Rajinikanth fan club has millions of followers and is a major vote bank which will help any political party.
There are going to be no tickets this year and a new experiment will be conducted with the delegate and media cards having a barcode that can be scanned to track which films the concerned delegate has signed up for and seen. Whether the new experiment will create a greater mess is yet to be seen. The government refuses to learn that digital does not work well in Goa where there is no coverage with even bank servers not functioning for hours at a time.
It must be said in all fairness that this IFFI has been better organised than previous IFFIs in some ways, with literature on both Indian and world cinema being made available on the18th itself, two days before the film festival. But the arrangements for the media were abysmal with the PIB headed by Vinod Kumar getting a lot of flak.
BLACK WELCOME FOR JAVADEKAR
And a few stray thoughts on the Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change Prakash Javadekar double-crossing Goa on the Mhadei diversion issue because of which he got the hottest reception at the inaugural ceremony.
It may be recalled that 15 days ago Prakash Javadekar, the minister in charge of water resources, denied that he had permitted Karnataka to divert the Mhadei river for the benefit of Karnataka. Javadekar kept assuring Goa that the letter would be withdrawn and justice would be done to Goa. Javadekar even told an all-party delegation led by the Chief Minister Pramod Sawant who met him in New Delhi that Goa’s interests will be protected.
To the shock of all good Goenkars including the majority of BJP MLAs, Prakash Javadekar has told Pramod Sawant in writing that the permission granted to build the Kalasa-Banduri dam to divert Mhadei waters would not be withdrawn.
If the letter itself was an act of gross betrayal the timing was even worse. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant admitted that he had been informed about the double-cross on the eve of the IFFI inauguration at which Prakash Javadekar was present. This is because Javadekar is also the Minister for Information & Broadcasting.
I would not be surprise if there is a war between Karnataka delegates and Goa delegates at the various venues. As recently as on Tuesday there was a massive rally at the Menezes Braganza where all the NGOs and political parties came together to fight the diversion of the Mhadei river.
The problem of Pramod Sawant is that he does not have the clout in Delhi that the late Manohar Parrikar used to enjoy. Though ironically it is late Manohar Parrikar who opened if not the door at least the window for Karnataka to justify its claim. Manohar Parrikar in one of his statement no doubt made with good intentions pointed out that for drinking water purposes Karnataka needed only 1/10th of the Mhadei water it was demanding.
The excuse of Karnataka for diverting the Mhadei water has always been acute shortage of water in Hubli and Dharward. Goa on its part has challenged the very principle of diverting the Mhadei water and had got the SC order staying the construction of the Kalasa-Banduri dam.
The other big mistake that the Pramod Sawant government did was to sack Atmaram Nadkarni as Goa’s advocate to fight Karnataka against the diversion of the Mhadei River. Admittedly Nadkarni was paid much more than other AGs and used and misused his influence with former Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. But the fact remains that he was a very good lawyer and fought very hard to stop Karnataka from getting an order in its favour. The new advocate general and the solicitor generals appointed by the Central government are not concerned about the interests of Goa.
There is a major risk of Pramod Sawant being toppled from the post of chief minister if he is not able to persuade Delhi to change his mind. The BJP has its own compulsions as it is part of a coalition government in Karnataka. In the quarrel between the Congress and the JDU-BJP combine more than 15 MLAs belongings to the BJP and the JDU were disqualified. The by-elections to fill the seats is scheduled on December 5, 2019, less than a month away. The BJP has to win at least six seats to remain in power and prevent the Congress from recapturing the state.
Even more importantly, unlike Goa which has only two Rajya Sabha seats, Karnataka has 12 seats. Though the BJP has a thumping majority in the Lok Sabha it is still in a minority in the Rajya Sabha. For the passage of Constitution amendments the party has to get 2/3rds of the votes in both the Lok Sabha and the Raj Sabha. The BJP already has the two Rajya Sabha seats in Goa. If the BJP is able to get 10 of the 15 seats in the bye elections it will be able to capture all the 12 Rajya Sabha seats and get a majority. So the BJP has much greater stake in keeping Karnataka happy then bothering about water shortage in Goa.
In the process there may be a revolt against Pramod Sawant who may be forced to step down from the CMs post. It is possible that the ten Congress MLAs and the two BJP MLAs who merged with the BJP to let it remain the ruling party may resign and re-contest.
The BJP has already lost the support of the GF party and the independent MLA Rohan Khaunte. Part of the problem has always been the fact that Goa is such a small state that anybody can bully it, as Maharashtra did during the Opinion Poll. For the BJP the issue of diversion of water of Mhadei may just be a political game, but it is the matter of life and death for Goa.
Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan
And a few stray thoughts on the Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan (MBA) getting ready to fight a giant battle against Pramod Sawant and his government on the Mhadei issue.
On Monday there was a massive rally at the Menezes Braganza hall when it was decided to organize a mega agitation against the Modi government and Prakash Javadekar. Among those who address the anti Mhadei diversion rally were Arvind Bhatikar and Subhash Velingkar. The main speaker was the ultimate authority on the Mhadei river Dr Rajendra Kelkar who has made a detailed study and is part of the execute committee of the MBA.
The diversion of the Mhadei river will have disastrous consequences for Goa. It will cause an acute shortage as it is the Mhadei which supplies water to the Opa power station. The Dudhsagar falls which attracts lakhs of tourist will literally disappear. The flora and fauna of Goa will also be affected as the diversion will deprive the Mhadei and Netravali water sanctuaries of water.
The agitation will be bigger than the Opinion Poll agitation or the fight to make Konkani the official language of Goa.
It is clear that Pramod Sawant has no say in the matter. Absurdly enough Pramod Sawant has claimed that he is very happy with the letter he received from Prakash Javadekar. This is shocking because no one who has the interests of Goa at heart can be happy with Javadekar’s suggestion of forming a committee to study the water supply requirement of Karnataka. Studies have confirmed that the shortage of water in Karnataka is due to large-scale cultivation of sugarcane which absorbs a lot of water. Karnataka is planning to divert the waters of the Mhadei to the Malaprabha basin which is the sugar bowl of Karnataka.
The late Manohar Parrikar had proved that for meeting the drinking water requirements of Dharward and Hubli, Karnataka needed only 25 million cubic metres of water as against its demand of more than 500 million cubic metres.
The immediate threat of the anger about Mhadei may turn towards IFFI which has been inaugurated by I&B Minister Javadekar.
And a few stray thoughts on the corruption war between CM Pramod Sawant and Goa Forward chief Vijai Sardesai.
It started with allegations from Vijai Sardesai claiming the Pramod Sawant has bought 4,000 hectors of land in Dodamarg. Vijai even went to the extent of insinuating that Pramod Sawant may try to merge Dodamargh with Goa. Dodamarg is a very poor taluka with no infrastructure and lacks even schools and hospitals. Vijai Sardesai has accused Pramod Sawant of owning land worth
12 crore in Dodamarg which is the last taluka in Maharashtra before the bus enters in Goa.
Pramod Sawant has hit back by referring to the figures of assets declared by Vijai Sardesai during the 2012 and 2017 assembly elections. Pramod has pointed out that the assets declared in the returns filed before the collectors during the submission of nomination papers showed a huge increase of 500% in the assets of Vijai Sardesai.
In the 2011 election Vijai Sardesai declared his total assets along with his spouse at only5 crore. In the 2017 election the figure went up to over
500 crore. Pramod Sawant has also questioned the acquisition of more than 12 flats by Vijai Sardesai, including a penthouse in Dona Paula. Since the couple declared their income at only7 lakhs, Sawant has questioned how they could acquire 12 flats at an estimated average value of `1 crore each.
Pramod Sawant has threatened to file a CBI case against Vijai Sardesai. The Goa Forward chief in turn has threatened to refer the Dodamarg land purchases by Pramod Sawant to the Vigilance Commission.
And a last stray thought on Digambar Kamat, former CM and leader of the Congress Legislative Party, becoming hyperactive. His main target appears to be his former close friend Vijai Sardesai.
In the 2012 Assembly election, Kamat had lobbied very hard with the Centre for the Fatorda seat for Vijay Sardesai. The Congress high command instead gave the seat to the late Mama Carlos. A lot of Congress supporters of Vijai Sardesai, led by Digambar Kamat of course, opposed the nomination of Mama Carlos and campaigned for Vijai Sardesai. They maintained close ties even after the formation of the Goa Forward Party.
The understanding after the 2017 election, where the Congress unexpectedly got a majority of 17 seats as against the BJP’s 13, was that GF would support Digambar for the CMs post. This was opposed by then GPCC president Luizinho Faleiro and Congress high command observer Digvijay Singh. Even while Congress leaders were fighting amongst themselves, Sardesai was hijacked by Nitin Gadkari and persuaded to support Manohar Parrikar with the offer of deputy chief ministership.
When Vijai Sardesai objected to the choice of Pramod Sawant as CM after Parrikar’s death, the MGP MLAs merged with the BJP and Vijai was dropped from the Cabinet.
The mayor of the Margao Municipality suffered collateral damage. The Margao Municipal Council, like Panjim, has seats in both the Fatorda and Margao constituencies. Between Vijai and Digambar they got Babita Angle, a pathologist, elected as mayor. Consequent on the war between Vijai and Digambar the BJP is likely to take over the Margao Municipality.
Another factor in the ouster of Babita may be the decision to ask Fomento to quit as Digambar is very close to Avdhoot Timblo, chairperson of Fomento. It may be recalled that he even amended the CRZ rules retrospectively to prevent the demolition of a large part of Cidade de Goa by the Supreme Court.