“FIRST TIME, BJP IS TRYING TO POLARISE VOTERS IN GOA!” – BJP MLA of Vasco Carlos Almeida

OBJECTED: Carlos Almeida, who has resigned from the BJP, strongly opposes the double-tracking of the South Western Railway for the benefit of increasing coal transport for Gautam Adani.

BY GARY AZAVEDO

Former two-time Vasco BJP MLA CARLOS ALMEIDA, who recently quit the BJP to join Congress, laments that tainted politicians, particularly corrupt scamsters and molesters, are now being promoted in the party at the cost of loyal BJP karyakarta who have been sidelined. In an exclusive chat with Goan Observer’s correspondent,Carlos Almeida spoke about the legacy of the late chief minister of Goa, Manohar Parrikar, and his legacy. It was Manohar Parrikar who painstakingly brought the BJP to power in the state by winning the confidence of a section of the minority community. But alas, the party has now been hijacked by hoodlums in the party who are aggressively pushing an anti-minority agenda….

GOAN OBSERVER (GO): Having been elected twice consecutively as the Vasco BJP MLA in 2012 and 2017, why did you quit BJP?

CARLOS ALMEIDA (CA): BJP was troubling us. They had pushed us to the wall.

GO: Can you please elaborate? 

CA: By “pushed us to the wall” I mean on the development front. They used to ignore us for meetings. Many issues were there.

GO: Who are these “us?”

CA: By “us” I mean the BJP workers. During the peak of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, I had asked for a lockdown but they (government) did not listen. Even today Covid   has spread throughout Goa and during that period, Vasco was like a time bomb with the virus entering the Mongor Hills locality. I had asked for a lockdown which they (government) did not give. The minister (Milind Naik) was doing activity in the Port during these Covid time so they (government) did not give a lockdown on purpose and that resulted like a bomb blast in Vasco. The government could have controlled that…they did not do it.

GO: As a former Manohar Parrikar loyalist and a Catholic BJP MLA elected consecutively for two terms with a thumping majority, now do you feel all Catholic MLAs are being sidelined by the new party dispensation?

CA:  Parrikar was a smart person. He had got a lot of minorities on board and they all won, the second time, too. Why did these minority BJP MLAs win the second time? There has to be a reason for it! Manohar Parrikar had thought of long term gains for the BJP but now it is only short term! Now they have taken 10 MLAs into the BJP for no reason!

GO: You are trying to tell me that the late Parrikar’s legacy has been sidelined, with all the corrupt legislators — whom the BJP earlier criticised — having left the Congress to join the BJP lock, stock and barrel?

CA: The BJP workers in Saligao, Ponda and Vasco are upset because the BJP has now started importing people. Those 10 MLAs was a different subject but now they have started another game…

IGNORED: Utpal Parrikar was completely ignored during the unvailing of the statue of the late Manohar Parrikar at his samadhi at Miramar beach.

GO: What is this game as you call it?

CA: This game is to cut the minorities to size.

GO: Do you mean to say that the recent remarks made by Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant regarding preserving Hindu and mandir sanskriti by reconstructing the old Hindu temples demolished by the Portuguese on the existing sites where now churches stand? Will this boomerang on the BJP in the forthcoming assembly elections?

CA: That comment was in bad taste as Goa is known for its communal harmony since ages. When all over India there are communal riots, there are none in Goa! This is the first time that they have tried to polarise voters. This is wrong!

GO: What made you choose the Congress over other political parties?

CA: The option was from my workers who told me to go for a national party.

GO: There are other national political parties like the Aam Admi Party (AAP), Trinamool Congress (TMC), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), etc. Why did you specifically choose the Congress party over other national political parties?

CA: There are many factors. First, the Congress has a vote base in Goa. Second, they are not communal.

GO: There are many aspirants within the Congress party like Nandeep Raut, Ulasrico Rodrigues, etc, who are seeking the party nomination from Vasco constituency and they have been displaying their banners throughout this constituency. What makes you feel that the Congress will select you over the other Vasco Congress ticket aspirants?

CA: I have many plus points. My major plus point is that I have seven Mormugao Municipal Council (MMC) councilors with me. I have been elected as Vasco MLA twice. These are my plus points.

GO: What makes Carlos Almeida the best candidate for Vascokars to elect for this Vasco assembly constituency, having won from this constituency for two consecutive terms…but now there is an anti-incumbency factor prevailing against you?

CA: See, this anti-incumbency factor was made on purpose. It was made by the party to finish me (politically)! I have been pushed to the wall…if a cat is pushed to the wall, it fights back…so now it is my time to fight back.

GO: If you are denied the Congress party nomination, what will you do? Will you contest as an independent candidate or join some other political party like the AAP or TMC?

CA: Regarding the Congress ticket, I feel it will come automatically to me as I have my own voter base. Besides, there are seven MMC councilors backing me, who all have their own voter base. Moreover, I have a clean corruption-free image and having won two consecutive terms from this Vasco constituency, my development works will speak for itself.

GO: Can you narrate the issues still plaguing the Vasco constituency despite being elected as the legislator for two consecutive terms and what have been your achievements? What will be your manifesto for the forthcoming assembly elections?

CA: Basically, there is no tourism business in Vasco that has a port, railway, road and sea connectivity. So I had proposed the ‘Blue Flag’ certification for Baina beach…if you see the other Goan beaches like Baga, Calangute, Colva and Palolem in Canacona, they are prospering. I want Vasco to prosper in that manner. This is one aspect.

Secondly, mining must start. Vasco has many mining dependents like barge owners, lodge owners, stevedores, all situated in the port town and the ore goes from Vasco. It is not only Sanvordem and the hinterland but even Vasco is affected from the mining ban.

GO: What is your take on the coal hub controversy and the three linear projects including the double tracking proposal that the BJP government was aggressively pursuing, ignoring vociferous public protests which are being supported by the Congress and other parties opposing these projects?     

CA: During the meeting held at the Secretariat during Manohar Parrikar’s time, I had asked, Who will benefit from double tracking? How many trains are expected in Goa? But they (government) had no answers. See, if double tracking comes, it’s fine but who is it going to benefit? The government must tell us.

GO: Is there a coterie within the BJP planning to oust you from the party? Such as former urban development minister and Mormugao BJP MLA Milind Naik and Panchayat Minister Mauvin Godinho, who sought to make Mormugao taluka their personal fiefdom? Were they working against you?

CA: I had no issues with Transport Minister Mauvin Godinho but I had several issues with Milind Naik. First, the Bombay High Court at Goa has rapped him for the reservation of seats of the municipal ward elections. He was a failure there. Second, the MMC municipal building renovation, there again he has failed. He has failed to construct the fish market. Then there’s the sex scandal but he is very close to the top bosses in the party…

GO: All in all after the demise of Manohar Parrikar you feel loyal BJP karyakarta are disillusioned, upset and demoralized, as the party high command is not listening to their grievances but promoting former Congress entrants into the BJP? Comprising of scamsters MLA Atanasio Babush Monserrate against whom there is also a pending rape case in the court, which ironically the BJP were vociferously protesting about in the 2019 Panjim by-polls? Are these loyal BJP karyakarta now sidelined or pushed to the wall as you called it earlier?

CA: I agree since after Parrikar’s death, the BJP is different, as they are trying to accommodate all scamsters and rapists within the party. For example, former Porvorim independent MLA Rohan Khaunte, who earlier used to call the CM various types of names, has now joined the BJP. Similarly, the other constituencies of Saligao and Ponda and especially Ponda, where the BJP workers have fought with (the former Congress MLA) Ravi Naik and sustained the pressure for so many years. BJP karyakarta in Ponda, Porvorim and Saligao wherein (the former BJP minister) Dilip Parulekar has also been sidelined…

GO: Likewise, Mandrem constituency too, that was represented by the former chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar, who is also feeling upset with the party, do you agree?

CA: It was Laxmikant Parsekar who gave us the Chicalim hospital in Vasco. It was a gift when Parsekar was the CM and I appreciate what he did but today he is sidelined by the party. I am feeling bad for him. BJP is going to lose. It is not going to be easy for the BJP to win this time. There is a wave against the BJP government due to price rise and other factors.

Also, Vasco was never a BJP constituency but a Congress bastion electing Congressmen like the late Shaikh Hassan Haroon, Simon D’Souza, Herculano Dourado, etc. But we, the BJP, broke this trend.

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