GOA POLLS: It looks as if the outcome of the Goa elections will decide who will be the prime minister after the 2024 Parliamentary elections! So all the biggest neta have arrived in Goa from Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, Home Minister Amit Shah, to senior-most Congress leader Rahul Gandhi… not to mention West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Aam Adami Party (AAP) asked Governor of Goa PS Sreedharan Pillai to sack Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. For a Saturday following the week when Goa Forward changed its mind over merging with the Goa Trinamool Congress. For a Saturday following the week when the case of Aryan Khan, son of Shah Rukh Khan, took a strange twist with the Narcotics Bureau’s Regional Director Sameer Wankhede being accused of extortion. For a Saturday following the week when a Muslim woman was assaulted in Kerala for not carrying “Non-Halal” sign at his restaurant.
SACK PRAMOD DEMAND!
AND a few stray thoughts on the Goa Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Aam Adami Party (AAP) asked the Governor of Goa PS Sreedharan Pillai to sack Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. This was in the wake of the allegations made by former Goa’s former governor, Satya Pal Malik, who described the Pramod Sawant government as very corrupt. Despite for former governor having reported this to the Home Ministry at the Centre as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, no action was taken against Pramod Sawant. Instead, despite confirming that the governor’s charges were true, Narendra Modi transferred Satya Pal Malik to Meghalaya.
The intrepid TMC leader in the Rajya Sabha Derek O’Brien went to Meghalaya to meet Satya Pal Malik. Who confirmed that he had raised the issue of corruption in the Pramod Sawant government with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Later, on Monday night, October 25, India Today TV anchor Rajdeep Sardesai got Goa’s former governor Satya Pal Malik to confirm the charges against Pramod Sawant publically in his 9pm channel. Malik also commented on the BJP’s decision to divide Jammu & Kashmir.
AAP, TMC MEET PILLAI
AFTER the news became public both the TMC and the AAP approached present Governor of Goa Sreedharan Pillai. They demanded that Pramod Sawant should be sacked immediately. The TMC asked for the immediate resignation of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. AAP party workers demonstrated outside the Chief Minister’s official residence which is the Chief Minister’s bungalow called `Mahalaxmi’ at Panaji’s Altinho. Strangely, the Congress which had won 17 seats in the 2017 election, did not meet the Governor Pillai to demand the sacking of Pramod Sawant. The Congress only asked for an enquiry by a Supreme Court judge into the corrupt practises of Pramod Sawant. Instead of asking Pramod Sawant to resign, the BJP has asked Satya Pal Malik to quit his post as Governor of Meghalaya.
WHAT is a matter of great concern is the charges relating to the purchase of Covid-19 equipment and consumer goods. The story goes that huge kickbacks were demanded from suppliers of Covid-19 consumables. All eyes were focused on the supply of Covishield vaccines in sufficient quantity for Goa. Nobody thought of all the other purchases by the Goa government for the treatment of Covid-19 patients. This included several lakh face masks, certainly several lakh of the special Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), oxygen cylinders which were contracted out to Scoop Limited in Corlin without calling for tenders It was Scoop which by not supplying oxygen on time which was responsible for many Covid-19 deaths. Apparently, there was a major racket even in the purchase of vaccines which were diverted to private hospitals. It may be recalled that Manipal Hospital was charging over a Rs1,000 for the two doses. I paid Rs 250 for my first dose of Covisheld but had to pay Rs780 for my second dose. For the RT-PCR test I paid Rs1,300. The government must also have spent several crore on getting Covid-19 samples tested in a private lab before it acquired the facility for the Goa Medical College hospital.
The alleged corruption by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and Health Minister may be responsible for quite a few patients who died for want of timely oxygen and drugs. Not surprisingly Vishwajit Rane has remained very silent on the corruption allegations to do with Covid-19 equipment purchased. The fall out between them allegedly took place because Chief Minister Pramod Sawant objected to not getting his share of the kickbacks for purchase of Covid-19 equipment. The Goa Association of Resident Doctors (GARD) has already prepared a report on the number of Covid-19 deaths due to the shortage of oxygen.
GF REJECTS TMC!
AND a few stray thoughts on how Goa Forward (GF) changed its mind about merging with the Trinamool Congress. Goa Forward chief and MLA from Fatorda kept praising the “Goddess Mamta Durga of Kolkata.” Vijai, who was refused an alliance by the Congress High Command, appeared to be keen on tying up with the TMC. The TMC however insisted that there could be no alliance. The only choice for Vijai Sardesai was to merge his party with the TMC. This Vijai Sardesai was not willing to do. For better or worse Vijai had created a brand identity of his own for his party Goa Forward. The Goa Forward won three seats in the 2017 election and has established itself as a strong regional party.
In fact, the Goa Forward has done better than the MGP which has been in existence since Liberation. The only mistake Vijai Sardesai made was to tie up with the BJP after the last Assembly election in 2017. But this was due to the delay by the Congress in accepting Vijai’s demand that Digambar Kamat be made the chief minister.
The High Command was willing but the then President of the GPCC Luizinho Faleiro sabotaged it by telling Sonia Gandhi that BJP would arrest Digambar Kamat in the Rs 35,000 crore mining scam. This was what prevented Sonia Gandhi from permitting Digambar from staking his claim in forming the government by meeting Goa governor quickly. The then High Command Observer Digvijai Singh did not give permission to Luizinho Faleiro to stake his claim to form the government. Which is why as if in delayed revenge Luizinho Faleiro said goodbye to Sonia Gandhi to say hello to Mamata-didi’s Trinamool Congress.
LUIZINHO NOT CM FACE
HOWEVER, Luizinho will not be the face of the TMC as chief minister if it wins a majority. The TMC was seriously considering projecting Vijai Sardesai as the chief minister of Goa. Fortunately or unfortunately, the former chief minister of Goa, Digambar Kamat, is very close to Vijai. It is he who persuaded Vijai not to merge with the TMC as his Goa Forward will then lose its identity as a Goan party. Digambar requested Rahul Gandhi to talk to Vijai Sardesai to assure him that there will be an alliance between Goa Forward and Congress.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) of Sharad Pawar is also keen on an alliance with the Congress party and wants ten seats. The Congress seems to have revived itself and has managed to stop more of its leaders and workers from joining the TMC. In fact, Rahul Gandhi had come to Goa to meet party workers and to assure them that the Congress is still alive and kicking and will get at least 21 seats in the Assembly elections in February 2022.
NETAS FLOOD GOA
AND a few stray thoughts on the rush of top leaders coming to Goa this week. Vice- President Venkaiah Naidu is already in Goa. It is not clear whether he has come to sort out the political mess. He might have come to assess the damage to the image of ruling BJP by charges of corruption made by former governor of Goa Satya Pal Malik against Pramod Sawant. However, it may also be possible that he has come to scold his son-in-low Venkat Rao, who was given the contract to build the third Mandovi bridge, Atal Sethu. The contract was given to L & T but L & T sub-contracted it to Venkat Rao. Almost all projects built by Venkat Rao, the son-in-law of Vice- President Venkaiah, Naidu have been substandard.
The potholes on Dayananad Bandodkar road going to Taleigao were filled only when Amit Shah visited Goa. The roads were further repaired for the benefit of a smooth ride for visiting Minister Amit Shah. The Goa government was planning to sack son-in-law Venkat Rao and a file criminal case against him. But the VP comes to Goa frequently to visit his daughter and son-in-law.
On October 28 Mamata-didi arrives in Goa. She is expected to stay till October 30 when Remo Fernandes and Lucky Ali will officially join the TMC. Remo may even be the TMC candidate from Siolim. But Remo does not do anything without being paid huge amounts. I remember I had asked him on behalf of the then Health Secretary Rina Ray, to sing a song for a video we were making to prevent the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The first case of the SARS epidemic in India was reported from Goa. It was Remo’s 50th birthday and he was giving a free show at the Campal grounds. When I made a request to him to help create awareness on SARS by singing a song for our video he demanded Rs5 lakh in advance. I am still shocked to this day that the late Manohar Parrikar agreed to give him Rs5 lakh. But Health Secretary Rina Ray was happy for it was paisa vasool for her. This is because Remo also sang songs on preventing AIDs and fighting drugs. All this was part of the Health Ministry’s programme.
As we have pointed out earlier Rahul Gandhi is visiting Goa on Saturday, Oct 30, before that on Thursday on Oct28 Mamata-didi is coming. Venkaya Naidu is already here from Wednesday, Oct 27, and he us here for a four-day visit. It is expected that Rahul Gandhi will clear the confusion about alliances. It is likely that the request for alliance by the NCP and the Goa Forward will be accepted by the de facto Congress president, Rahul Gandhi.
Strangely, officially Rahul has not yet accepted the post of party president which his mother Sonia Gandhi wants him to take up desperately. On the other hand it is Priyanka Gandhi who seems to have taken over and is challenging Yogi Aditiyanath in the elections in Uttar Pradesh. Following the revolt within the Congress of a group of senior leaders including Kapil Sibel, Sonia has made it clear that she is still the boss. We do not know whether Sonia Gandhi and Narendra Modi will also visit Goa for a street fight with Mamata-didi.
NCB DIRECTOR ACCUSED
AND a few stray thoughts on the Aryan Khan son of Shah Rukh Khan case took a strange twist with the Regional Director of NCB Sameer Wankhede being accused of extortion. It is now alleged that Sameer Wankhede, the Regional Director of the Narcotic Bureau, demanded Rs25 crore from Shah Rukh Khan. Now the Central government has started an enquiry into the charges against Sameer Wankhede.
Meanwhile, Aryan Khan claims that the WhatsApp chats were about an online poker game he was playing with Anaya Pandey. Anaya Pandye is the daughter of Chunky Pandye. Aryan lawyer Mukul Rohatgi has pointed out that Aryan was not a drugs consumer but was invited as a special guest to the cruise ship. Nothing was recovered from him and no medical tests were done.
The only charge is that some drugs were found in the shoes of his friend Arbaaz Khan. “What somebody else has in their shoe is not my concern. That cannot be proof of Aryan Khan conscious possession.” NCB is primarily relying on WhatsApp chats from 2018, 2019 and 2020, none of which are related to the arrest made on the cruise ship. NCB however is sticking to its allegation that Aryan is part of an International Drug Syndicate and a regular user of drugs. Two of Aryan Khan’s associates have been granted bail by the Mumbai High Court. The High Court granted bail to Aryan Khan after 22 days dismissing all the charges against him. It ruled that Whatsapp chats are not evidence and there is no proof of drug posession, consumptin or peddling by Shah Rokh Khan. Meanwhile Sameer Wankhede the Regional Director of the Narcotics Bureau applied for bail in charges of extortion.
HARRASMENT OF MUSLIMS!
AND a last stray thought on a Muslim women being assaulted in Kerala for not carrying “Non-Halal” sign at a restaurant. Muslims are supposed to only eat meat which is halal. In the case of halal meat the slaughter is done only after all the blood has been drained away. This is an example of the continuous harassment of the Muslim Minority Community by the saffron brigade.
Thushara Ajith, the women who was attacked for not displaying the “Non-Halal” food at her restaurant in Kochin was brutally attacked by RSS goons. Police claim that the incident happened on Sunday evening on October 24, when Thushara was setting up a new restaurant in Info Park. Attacks on Muslims have sharply increased after the RSS chief claimed that the population of Muslims has been increasing rapidly and this could pose a threat to the Hindu majority.
Which is absurd because the rate of growth of Muslim community population is now much less than that of the Hindu community. Kerala is one of the first states in the country where people converted to Islam. The Mappila Muslims or “Kaka” are world famous. All the hotels or rather tea shops in the Gulf are run by the Mappilas who are a very enterprising business community like the Bohri Muslims.
The joke is that when the first man Neil Armstrong landed on the moon he found that a Mappila Muslim had already set up a tea shop on the moon. Some of the biggest hospitals in the country like the Aster Hospital in Bangalore, which now has started a branch in Goa, is owned by a Kerala Muslim. Muslims make up a large vote bank in Kerala but will never vote for the BJP. Which is why the RSS and the BJP are targeting them.