THREAT: The rejection of the BJP ticket by Rajesh Patnekar has disturbed the Bharatiya Janata party as he is hearing the disqualification petitions filed against the ten Congress MLAs and two MGP MLAs who defected to the BJP.
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when NCP President Sharad Powar appeared to plotting to take over as the chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). For a Saturday following the week when BJP Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Rajesh Patnekar rejected the party ticket for the Bicholim seat. For a Saturday following the week when the Trinamool Congress decided to field its first catch, Luizinho Falerio, against Vijay Sardessai in the Fatorda constituency. For a Saturday following the week when Delhi’s Chief Minister and High Command of the Aam Aadmi party Arvind Kejriwal announced that Amit Palekar would be the chief ministerial face of AAP, if the party got a majority in the assembly elections. For a Saturday following the week when the creator of the Aadhar Card Nandan Nilekani expressed his reservation over technology taking over our life. For a Saturday following the week when the Election Commision may be forced to postpone the election to the Goa Assembly scheduled for February 14.
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AND a few stray thoughts on the president of the Indian Nationalist Congress (INC) plotting to replace Sonia Gandhi as chairperson of the UPA. Sonia Gandhi has repeatedly rejected demands from Mamata didi that the TMC should be permitted to takeover the leadership of a united opposition against the BJP. The TMC’s logic is that it is the only party in the country which has so far inflicted a crushing defeat on the BJP in the Kolkatta assembly elections. Moreover the TMC has 45 seats in the Lok Sabha as compared to the 52 seats of the Indian National Congress Party.
As against this the performance of the headless Congress Party in the various State assembly polls has been dismal. The Congress is in power in only five of the 32 states in the country. Sharad Pawar is obviously furious over the remark of Mamata-didi that the UPA was no longer relevant. Sharad Pawar, who is the shrewdest matchmaker in the country, seems to have decided to kill the gap created by the tussle between Sonia Gandhi and Mamata didi.
In the wake of the rejection by the Congress of the proposal by TMC for an alliance in Goa to defeat the BJP, the NCP which has been waiting on the sidelines, has jumped into the fray. The Congress response to Reginaldo Lourenco quitting the TMC and offering to return to the Congress, has given the NCP and ideal opportunity. The NCP has invited Reginaldo Lourenco to contest on its ticket and has perhaps even offered to make him chief minister if the alliance gets him a majority.
As in Maharashtra the NCP has decided to align itself with the Shiv Sena, which plans to contest 20 plus seats in the Goa assembly elections. Clearly the NCP wants to follow the Maharashtra model of governance in Goa. In Maharashtra Sharad Powar managed to forge an alliance between the Congress and the Shiv Sena and the NCP to topple the BJP government. This was unique as historically the Shiv Sena has been a partner of the BJP.
It is entirely possible that Sharad Powar may accept the invitation of the TMC for an all-opposition party alliance to defeat the BJP in the assembly elections scheduled for February 14. At the recent press conference at the Grand Hyatt, NCP Vice-President Praful Patel announced the entry of Reginaldo Lourenco into the party, and plans are under way to form an alliance with the Shiv Sena and other opposition parties to take on the BJP. Simultaneously, the NCP has decided to isolate the Congress party and will not have any further talks with it on any alliance in Goa.
AND a few stray thoughts on the great embarrassment caused to the BJP by the refusal of the party ticket by Rajesh Patnekar, speaker of the Legislative Assembly. Patnekar was elected from the Bicholim constituency on the BJP ticket. The revolt by Rajesh Patnekar comes at a time when he is hearing disqualification petitions against ten congress MLAs and the two MGP MLAs who defected to the BJP following the death of the late Manohar Parrikar. The strength of the BJP in the Legislative Assembly will fall from 27-13 if speaker Rajesh Patnekar disqualifies all the defectors.
Besides the defectors two prominent MLAs of the BJP, Micheal Lobo from Calangute and Alina Saldanha from Cortalim, have also quit the BJP. Micheal Lobo has joined the Congress party and is being confirmed as the candidate for Calangute. Alina Saldanha has joined Aam Aadmi party and is the AAP candidate for Cortalim.
The BJP, which was considered a front runner to retain power after the Assembly elections, is now on the backfoot. Many MLAs belonging to the minority community, who got elected on the BJP ticket, have either quit or are apprehensive that they may be denied the party ticket. Unlike the late Manohar Parrikar who had taken the initiative to integrate the minority Catholic community with the BJP, the present duo of Satish Dhond and Pramod Sawant want to return to hardcore Hindutva policies. Not only in Goa but nationwide there have been attacks on the minority communities allegedly instigated quietly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. The Catholic Bishops Conference of India and its Goan counterpart have given a call not to elect criminals and Hindutva fanatics. They are very agitated over the calls for genocide against the minorities during the Dharma Sansad held at Haridwar and New Delhi, recently.
Carlos Almeida, the Vasco MLA, has quit the BJP and joined the Congress. The majority of the Salcette MLAs who were elected on the BJP ticket in the 2017 elections are not interested in contesting on the lotus symbol. The local parish priests who are often more influential than even the bishops have started a bitter campaign against the BJP. The BJP’s rejection of Catholics who had been given tickets by Manohar Parrikar and who got elected to the Assembly will weaken its chances of returning to power. Of the 13 seats the BJP won in the 2017 elections, 10 were won by Catholics who got the BJP ticket. The BJP has no bench strength. Even worse, it has refused to give a ticket to former chief minister, Laxmikant Parsekar. Perhaps the greatest mistake of the present leadership is its adamant refusal to deny the BJP ticket for the Panjim assembly constituency to Utpal Parrikar, the son of late Manohar Parrikar.
AND a few stray thoughts on the creator of the Aadhar Card, Nandan Nilekani, managing director of Infosys, warning against over-dependence on technology. The world including India are becoming increasing dependent on digital technology ever since the Covid-19 pandemic in June 2019. Nilekani, who in the face of strong opposition created the Addhar Card for the government of India, seems to be the last person who would feel threatened by the advances in technology. But he has been pointing out that the human interface has been very badly affected by not only digital technology but the expansion of social media.
According to the former Infosys head we face the danger of losing our humanity and being reduced to robots. Students and children no longer interact with each other due to the imperatives of e-learning. Similarly, the camaraderie that used to be part of the office environment, has been undermined by compelling employees to work from home. While working from home may on the surface seem to be advantageous to both the employer and the employee, however, in practice it has been detrimental for both. The distinction between home and work has disappeared. Human relations experts have pointed out that productivity dropped ever since the process of working from home was introduced.
Leading educationists have pointed out that the quality of education has been badly affected by the closure of educational institutions. Private schools have estimated that the learning disability (defined as ability to write a simple sentence at the age of 10 years) even in a small state like Goa is as high as 45% due to the closure of schools. The situation is worse in rural areas where the learning disability is as high as 70%.
The introduction of e-learning under the excuse of preventing Covid-19 infection has become a huge money making racket for private educational institutions. I was shocked when a colleague paid Rs2.5 lakh for a post-graduate degree in Mass Communications by a leading Mumbai college and was provided with only two months of physical classes. Similarly, the students of the Goa Institute of Management and the Goa Campus of the Birla Institute of Technology, have hardly any physical classes.
Zoom and other technologies for long distance interaction do not provide the intimacy and interaction that physical attendance of institutions provides. In many households not just children but even housewives spend more time surfing on their smart phones than reading books or engaging in a hobby. Technology has become a prison. Nandan believes that we need to restore the balance between technology and personal family and social interaction
AND a few stray thoughts on not just work but play also being affected by the covid pandemic. As the saying goes “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Amongst the greatest attractions in Goa are the football matches, whether it is the amateur village tournaments or the professional Indian Super League. We know of several Goans who sit up late in the night to watch the European leagues. The World Cup of course drives everyone into a frenzy just like the IPL.
The most dramatic example of how sports has been impacted is the lockdown on the ISL. It has been revealed that players of eight of the ten participating teams in the ISL are confined to their rooms. Apparently over 50 players and officials including a dozen players of FC Goa have been infected by Covid-19. Omicron seems to be smarter than all the technologies which think that a mere bio bubble can keep it at bay. In the case of the ISL the omicron variant has penetrated the bio bubble.
Perhaps the most controversial incident relating to Covid-19 interfering with an international tournament is the Australian Open. The world number one in tennis Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia because he admitted that he had not been vaccinated. There are increasing doubts on the effectiveness of the covid vaccines since they do not seem to be effective against Omicron. How many booster doses can a person take and how long will the coronavirus pandemic continue?
The interesting part is that even those who have taken both doses of the vaccine have fallen prey to Omicron. Unlike the other variants, Omicron seems to run faster than Usain Bolt who is considered the fastest sprinter in the world. Increasingly, people are wondering whether the vaccines are part of a huge multinational pharmaceutical scam. Indeed, a leading American scientist activist Dr Shiva Ayyadurai has launched a march against pharma giant Pfizer in the United States. The anti-vaccine lobby is growing stronger particularly in the developed western world.
AND a last stray thought on the probability that the Assembly elections will be postponed much to the joy of those that want to enjoy Valentine’s Day. The elections in Goa are scheduled for February 14. Being polling day it will be a dry day and if the covid epidemic continues at the present rate, you can only greet your girlfriend virtually. Forget hugs and kisses. The positivity rate has touched a new peak of over 50% even with the reduced testing. With the Chief Minister refusing to impose any curbs nobody will be able to even vote. Candidates have the option of filing nominations online; unfortunately, the voter cannot vote online. The delay will give politicians more time to hop around.