SPLIT: The BJP even managed to get its majority community candidate to capture the historical Catholic citadel of Navelim

It would appear that it is at the insistence of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh that Pramod Sawant was appointed chief minister in preference to Vishwajit Rane. This is because Pramod Sawant is an RSS karyakarta who can be relied on to carry out orders of the RSS. The RSS has publicly announced its determination to monitor the decisions and the quality of governance of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant \

By Rajan Narayan

FOR the first time since Liberation the predominantly Catholic Salcette taluka does not have a single minister in the Pramod Sawant government. Even the expectation that Reginaldo Lourenco who won the Curtorim seat as an Independent has not been fulfilled. As many as five former chief ministers of Goa have come from Salcette. Of the eight seats in Salcette, except for the Margao constituency, it is Catholics who have dominated the taluka. The Salcette taluka has been the backbone of the Congress party Goa. It is the Catholic candidates fielded by the Congress who have won their seats in every election since Liberation.
This is obviously on the insistence of the RSS which seems to be determined to polarize Goa along communal lines. The RSS has for the first time since liberation of Goa given notice that it is going to play an active role in the functioning of the Pramod Sawant government. The intervention of the RSS is cloaked in good intentions. The RSS spokesperson has directed the chief minister to provide corruption-free good governance to the people in the most transparent manner. The RSS has even gone to the extent of asking the CM to monitor the activities of government servants by installing CCTV cameras. It would appear that it is Nagpur which will be running the Goa government.
Historically, the Salcette taluka was the monopoly of the United Goans Party led by Jack Sequeira. For the first 15 years after Liberation the fight for control of the state was between the United Goans and the MGP. It was the United Goans who merged with the Congress making it a significant player in electoral politics in Goa. In the first election after Liberation the Congress was confident that it would get the majority on the presumption that Goans would reward the party for liberating Goa.
To the shock of the Congress, it did not win a single seat in Goa in the first elections. Besides the merger of the UGP with the Congress the break-up of the MGP under Shashikala Kakodkar also helped the Congress. In the late 70s three of the MGP MLAs who were part of the Shashikala-led MGP government defected to the Congress. Ironically this included Pratapsingh Raoji Rane who went on to become the chief minister of Goa six times as Congress leader.
The choice of Rane as CM was itself accidental. It so happened that there was a fight between Dr Wilfred D’Souza who was then GPCC president and Babu Naik who was the Salcette boss. Since neither Willy or Babu were willing to compromise the Congress high command nominated Pratapsingh Rane as the chief minister.

IT was the late Manohar Parrikar who broke the dominance of the Congress over the Catholic MLAs who were committed to the Congress. Parrikar led a very fragile government after the BJP withdrew support from the then CM Francisco Sardinha. Sardinha himself had come to power by toppling the Luizinho Falerio government in 1999 with the support of the BJP.
Parrikar was compelled to even seek the help of Atanasio Babush Monseratte to remain in power. Babush had been elected on the United Goans Democratic Party ticket. Babush in fact also got the Congress MLAs of Santa Cruz, Cumbarjua, St Andre and Canacona to resign their Congress seats and join the BJP.
It was in 2012 that realizing without the support of the minority community, the BJP could not form a stable government, and Manohar Parrikar adopted a unique strategy. Going against the historical traditions of the BJP, Parrikar decided to gift tickets to Catholics in the Congress stronghold of Salcette. Because of the infighting in the Congress, several leading Congressmen did not get a ticket. Those who were left out were happy enough to accept the late Parrikar’s invitation to contest from the BJP ticket.
To the shock of the Congress and the surprise of the BJP itself most of the Catholic candidates contesting on the BJP ticket won. They not only won but they became giant killers as they managed to penetrate Congress strongholds like Navelim and Benaulim represented by Luizinho Falerio and Churchill Alemao.
The experiment was so successful that the BJP got a clear majority in 2012. Unfortunately, Parrikar was not destined to complete a second full term in office as he was summoned to Delhi to become the defense minister of the country. But the experiment was repeated in 2017 and though the BJP got only 13 seats, the majority of those who won were Catholics. It was with the help of Catholics that Pramod Sawant, who was the choice of the Parrikar as the chief minister who managed to stay in power.When the Goa Forward and the MGP withdrew support to Pramod Sawant it was Monserrate who came to the BJP’s help. He persuaded 10 of the 15 Congress MLAs to defect to the BJP.
IN the latest election held on Valentine’s Day February 14, 2022 also the BJP banked on the Catholics to get a majority. To the extent of ignoring the claims of Utapal Parrikar for the Panaji constituency ticket. The provocation was that Babush had promised that he would secure all the five tickets in Tiswadi for the BJP. It is another matter that Babush could not fulfill his promise and won even his own seat by a narrow margin of 700 odd votes. The only other constituency he could win was Taleigao, represented by his wife Jennifer Monserrate.

THE BJP to everyone’s surprise managed to win 20 of the 40 seats in the Legislative Assembly in the 2022 elections. It could have won even more seats but for Michael Lobo switching to the Congress and facilitating the party’s victory in four out of the seven seats in Bardez.
But clearly now there is a change in the attitude of the BJP’s high command towards dependence on the minority community. Though the help of the minority community was taken where it was inevitable, the BJP focused on primarily North Goa. The majority of the candidates who won on BJP tickets in the recent elections were from constituencies in North Goa and Mormugao. The only notable minority community candidate who won were the BJP loyalists like Nilesh Cabral from Curchorem and Joshua D’Souza who had inherited his father’s BJP seat in Mapusa.
It is in its Cabinet formation that the BJP sent out a clear message that in Goa as in other states it would follow the Hindutva policy of marginalizing so called minorities. There are only two members of the minority community in Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s Cabinet, namely Mauvin Godinho and Nilesh Cabral. The BJP high command has made sure that prime portfolios like the TCP and PWD went to Hindu loyal candidates who won the election.
Vishwajit Rane got the TCP while the PWD department has gone to Nilesh Cabral. And as we pointed out in the beginning for the first time since Liberation, there is not a single MLA from Salcette who has been given a cabinet berth. Despite Reginaldo Lourenco offering his unqualified support to the BJP he has been sidelined. All the three remaining portfolios have gone to Hindu MLAs including one ticket to the old ally of the BJP, Sudin Dhavlikar, who won on the MGP ticket. The signal is red for the minority community.
Our apprehensions are that the BJP will start targeting minority Catholic and Muslim communities in Goa. Though Manohar Parrikar was an active member of the RSS and a leading BJP stalwart, he remained Goan in spirit, he was cosmopolitan at heart. Manohar Parrikar for instance refused to ban beef. Parrikar also readily agreed to restore the holiday for Good Friday. Parrikar was part of the Goan tradition where all communities lived in communal harmony.
Indeed, Parrikar openly admitted that he has been winning the Panaji seat repeatedly only because of the support of the Catholic vote. He was the darling of the Catholic voters. However, under Pramod Sawant, there has been a dramatic ominous change. The Ayodhya syndrome has cast its shadow on Goa. Pramod Sawant has not only been talking of rebuilding temples destroyed by the erstwhile Portuguese colonial government but he has even made a budget allotment of Rs20 crore in the current budget for this task.

CATHOLICS are also partly to blame as they have been migrating in ever large numbers. The only reason why the Revolutionary Goans Party candidate won the St Andre seat was because of funds coming from the majority of Catholics who have migrated to London and France, thanks to the support of the late Fr Freddy. Their relatives back home were lured by the POGO bill which offers a lot of carrots for NRI Goans.
It is unlikely the POGO bill will see the light of day – but the Congress goose was cooked this last elections thanks to the RG and the Trinamool Congress temptations of a new dawn which snared Goans who got distracted – because they did not want to vote for the BJP but ended up splitting the Congress votes to usher in more or less the old BJP government again – with one difference, the hitherto hidden face of the RSS is more visible and will likely spell out more trouble in Goa’s “ajeeb” vitiated politics.

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