SET BACK: Though the BJP swept the civic polls held on Saturday, March 20, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant lost his Sakhali ward and council. The Congress got a consolation prize winning nine of the four wards in Cuncolim

By Rajan Narayan

The Babush Janata Party(BJP)panel swept the Corporation of City of Panaji polls scoring 25 out of the 30 seats. The rival Ami Panjikar group led by Surendra Furtado who got only four seats. Babush Monserrate asserted that the BJP panel had won the CCP polls though 50% of the BJP karyakarta had worked against him, possibly referring to Utpal Parrikar and Sidharth Kuncalienker…

In our issue last week dated March 20, 2021, we had ask “Should Ponjekars vote for Monserrate and sons?” We should have perhaps framed the question differently. We should have ask can rival panels purchased the migrant and minority votes which Babush has already bought. The victory of the Babush Panel was a forgone conclusion. This is because he controls the migrant vote bank which includes the Muslim migrant vote bank.
Of the 20,000 plus voters, more than 50% comprise migrants including minority community. Unfortunately Surendra Furtados ‘Ami Ponkejars’ group the majority of the catholic population of Panaji have migrated abroad. Surendra and Ruth Furtado won their seat as they have been looking after their constituencies which are predominantly catholic. But they won by very narrow margins. While Surendra won by 57 votes, Ruth won by only 10 votes. I understand even Surendra and Ruth had hard time and had to spend much more money than they normally do as even in their wards there are a large number of migrants.
But many of the Babush Panel also had a tough time. The outgoing mayor Udhay Madkaikar who secured 601 votes faced a stiff challenge from Sharad Chopdekar who won 536 votes. The daughter of former customs officer Tony Dias Loren Dias who was allotted the ward which covers the booking office of the Casino faced a stiff challenged from AAP candidate Melesa Simoes who got 308 votes. SO while the Babush Panel won the CCP elections by a significant majority , they did not it as easy as in the past. The margins were low primarily because of the rebellion within the BJP many of whose the candidate were not given a ticket by Babush though it was a BJP Panel.
Despite the congress, the AAP and the rebel BJP leaders like Utpal Parrikar and Siddharth Kunkoleincar supporting the Ami Ponjekar, they were defeated. This is because they were not willing to pay for the votes they wanted. Only those like Nelson Cabral who matched Babush in paying for the tribal votes of Ivo village won from the Surendra Panel. Ironically I received the call from the Nelson Cabral supporters offering to send a car to pick me up to cast my vote in his favour. The electoral laws make it an offense to provide transport to voters to the polling booth.
The arithmetic of CCP elections is very simple. The total number of voters is only around 20,000 divided by 30 which represents the number of wards, the average number of voters is interestingly 666. Which in numerology is the number of the devil. No wonder the devil won from the CCP. With only an average of 666 voters in each ward the candidate does not have to spend much money to win in his ward. The only problem is that very few of the candidates from the ami ponjekar panel really have the resources to outbid Babush.

babush vote banks

It all comes down to nursing the constituency. Whether it is the assembly poll or the polls to CCP out of the Panachayats. Incidentally, Babush and his wife now control not only the Panaji and Taleigao assembly seats but also the Taleigao panchayat and the CCP. Unlike the other candidates Babush does not stop at offering doles on the eve of any of the election. For Babush maintaining his vote bank is a continuous process. For atleast two decades since he won his first election in 2002, he has been taking care of the migrant community including the minority Muslim community. For instance he has been paying the school fees of the majority of the migrant children studying in the Auxilium Convent school. Which is the only church control school which admit children from economically weaker sections. Babush has consolidated his position by taking over the Ideal School in Taleigao close to his residence. He has changed the name of the school Santa Mingel High School. Babush has even appointed himself manager of the school. Babush does charge fees but does not insists on any certificate like birth certificates for admission. Close workers of Babush get motor bikes. Even in distributing bikes babush cautious. He pays the first instalment and the down payment. This is a way of insuring but the person concern will continue to be loyal. If they take the bikes and don’t for those who can afford it. This time around many of the maids particularly the Nepali women got cycles as a gift from Babush.
Not that Babush is a great philanthropist. It is not as though Babush believes in donating large amounts of his wealth like Sudha Murthy of Infosys or Azim Premji of WIPRO. For Babush elections are business. Whatever he spends is a investment. Babush has made it a fine art of recovering his investments and in fact making a huge profit on it. For instance when he was the Taleigao MLA he broadened the roads and built new roads across the paddy fields.
This was to enable the builders to gain access to their mega projects. No doubt all of them were very great full to Babush. Babush had spoken about converting Taleigao into Singapore. May be now he will try to convert Panaji into Dubai. I have chosen Dubai as an example as it also has a majority of migrant. We will probably see an increase in the Floor Area Index as in Taliegao so that multi stored buildings can come up. It is possible that the Latin at Fontinhas may be removed from the list of heritage sites and construction will be permitted. In the past Babush had only a narrow majority in the CCP.
Now with a 2/3rd majority he can do what he wants to. Except that he may not succeed in his ambition of making Rohit his son the mayor of Panaji. Strangely the State Election Commission office was closed on polling day.

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