STATEHOOD: Rajiv Gandhi addressing jubilant Goans on Goa being conferred the status of statehood on May 30, 1987.
The Bharatiya Janta Party is trying to hijack the credit for Goa acquiring statehood thanks to the support of late Rajiv Gandhi by inviting President Ram Nath Kovind to participate in Statehood Day celebrations on May 30.
The Bharatiya Janata Party is in the process of hijacking the credit for Goa’s statehood. When Goa was liberated from Portuguese colonial rule in 1961, the then Congress government at the centre maintained it as a Union territory which also was responsible for the administration of the other Portuguese colonies – Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli. In the run after the liberation, there was a shrill demand from Maharashtra for the merger of Goa with the neighbouring state. The Marathi lobby was very strong at the centre and put a lot of pressure on the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. But Nehru made it clear that Goa would remain a Union territory for ten years, after which, the people of Goa would themselves decide whether they wanted to be an independent identity or merge with Maharashtra or Karnataka.
To the shock of the Congress Party in the first election held in 1962, it got only one of the 30 seats and that too from Daman. The Congress was expecting that it would get an overwhelming majority, since it was primarily responsible for the liberation of Goa. The Marathi lobby put up Dayanand Bandodkar as the leader of a newly formed party called the “Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party” with the sole intention of merging Goa with Maharashtra. The minority community on the other hand which wanted to retain Goa’s identity formed the United Goans party led by Jack Sequeira. In the first election, the MGP got the majority and formed the government under the Chief Ministership of Dayanand Bandodkar. The new MGP government even passed a resolution demanding that Goa should be merged with Maharashtra. The Congress party lobbied with the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi Purushottam Kakodkar, former member of the Lok Sabha, a very senior Congress leader reminded Indira Gandhi of her father Jawaharlal Nehru’s assurance that the people of Goa would be permitted to decide their status. It was in this context that the opinion poll was held in 1967. In the opinion poll where Jack Sequeira and VM Salgaonkar played the most crucial roles, the anti-merger group defeated the pro-merger MGP group. In retro aspect, it would appear that a sizable section of the Hindus also voted against merger. Despite the anti-merger forces winning the opinion poll, the centre retained the status of Goa as a Union territory and did not confer statehood.
It was a chicken and egg issue. The states in the country were organized on a linguistic basis. Which meant that Goa could not become a state as it did not have an official language at that time. The obstacle was that though more than 90% of the people of Goa spoke Konkani, they used Marathi for their religious and business transactions as Konkani did not have a commonly accepted script. The minority catholic community continued to agitate for statehood for Goa. As far back as in 1976, Luizinho Faleiro as in Navelim MLA moved a private member resolution demanding statehood for Goa.
This sparked off a conflaguration with the formation of the Kokani Basha Parishad to fight for official language status for Konkani. After a long and bitter struggle, at the instance of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the then Congress Chief Minister Pratap Singh Rane was directed to pass a bill in the state legislature to confirm the status of official language as Konkani. But the Marathi lobby was so strong that they insisted that only Konkani in the Devanagari script would get the status of the official language. Much to the disappointment of the miniority community which had hoped that Konkani in the Roman script would also get recognition as the official language. Worse still, the official language which was passed on the 4 th February 1987, virtually conferred equal language status to Marathi. The bill stipulated that while Konkani would be the official language, Marathi may be used for any or all official purposes.
To secure statehood it was necessary for the central government to amend the 8th schedule to include Konkani in the list of official languages. It was only as late as May 23 1987 that Parliament enacted the 56th amendment whereby Goa was conferred statehood. The story goes that the late Shantaram Naik who was a member of the Lok Sabha from North Goa at that time kept persisting with Rajiv Gandhi that statehood should be conferred on Goa now that it had an official language. Apparently Rajiv Gandhi told Shantaram Naik to raise the issue during zero hour to remind him to move the bill for conferring statehood on Goa. So the late Shantaram Naik is often referred to as the hero of the zero hour. For the benefit of those not familiar with parliamentary procedures, zero hour is the time allotted after question hour in parliament and the legislative assembly during which members could raise any issue of public importance. Rajiv Gandhi issued the notification conferring the status of statehood on Goa on May 30 1987.
The BJP had no role to play in Goa acquiring statehood. Indeed the BJP was not in the picture even in the opinion poll or the agitation to make Konkani the official language. Indeed in the 80s when all the action leading to Goa acquiring statehood finally happened, the BJP did not have any significant presence in parliament or for that matter the Goa state legislative assembly. So it is absurd that the BJP should seek to take the credit for Goa being conferred the status of statehood. In its typical fashion of distorting history, the BJP has decided to invite the President of India Ram Nath Kovind to participate in the celebration of statehood day on 30 May 2022. To create the impression that it was the BJP which was responsible for securing statehood for Goa.
We hope that the Congress which disappointed its supporters by failing to secure a majority in the 2017 election will not permit the BJP to hijack the credit for Goa achieving statehood. We urge the new president of the Goa Pradesh Congress committee, Ajit Patekar and the leader of the Congress legislative party, Michael Lobo to widely publicise the fact that statehood was a gift from Rajiv Gandhi and that the BJP had nothing to do with it. We also hope that the Congress will organize functions in all parts of Goa to commemorate May 30 statehood day.