By Rajan Narayan

AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the Congress finally announced Ramakant Khalap and Capt Viriato Fernandes as its candidates for north and south Goa parliamentary seats. For a Saturday following the week when sitting Congress MP Francisco Sardinha was dumped by the Congress. For a Saturday following the week when the biggest terrorist in Goa has been identified as Smart City Projects CEO Sanjit Rodrigues. For a Saturday when domestic tourists continued to flock to Goa. For a Saturday following the week when despite all of Modi’s guarantees the world’s Happiness Index does not reflect any claims of happiness in Bharatdesh.
AND a few stray thoughts on Ramakant Khalap, the choice of the Congress party for contesting the forthcoming north Goa parliamentary seat. Ramakant Khalap is often referred to as the “lion of Goa” because of his luxurious mane of white hair which he has been sporting for a long time. Ramakant shot into fame when he took over the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak party from Shashikala Kakodkar. Ramakant Khalap’s claim to fame is the agitation which forced Dayanand Narvekar to resign as speaker of the assembly way back in the 1990s.
Khalap had taken up the cause Sunita, a young staffer in the Speaker’s office who claimed of molestation . The first press conference to introduce Sunita and her mother was held by Ramakant Khalap at the residence of an MGP party worker in Mala. Though Narvekar resigned, Sunita became a bit of a burden for Khalap and later on he confessed that he should not have taken Sunita to his home.
Khalap was also active in opposing the proposal to make Konkani the official language of the state. Khalap succeeded in virtually getting equal status for Marathi when the official language bill was passed. He had the support of the Marathi lobby within the Cabinet which was headed by then chief minister, Pratapsingh Rane. It may be recalled that Pratapsingh Rane was the revenue minister in the Shashikala MGP government.
When the official language bill was passed it did specify that Konkani in the Devnagari script would be the official language. This was a set back for the Romi Konkani group which had fought aggressively to make Konkani the official language. The bigger blow was when the Diocesan English medium schools were forced to switch to the Konkani medium in Devnagari. The official language bill declared that Marathi could be used for any and every public purpose.
Ramakant Khalap was elected to parliament from north Goa on the MGP ticket after the Emergency in India. The then Prime Minister Deve Gowda appointed him as the Union minister for law. Khalap was a good lawyer and administrator and he was responsible for destroying the MGP when he defected to the new political front floated by Churchill Alemao in the early 90s. The Progressive Democratic Front which was launched by a rebel group in the Congress got Khalap and six MGP MLAs to defect .
Khalap was offered the post of deputy chief minister. Khalap wanted to become the chief minister and kept plotting on how to topple the government. I recall spending several evenings with him at Vero Nunes’ Bambolim Beach Resort. He had taken over the old Mercedes car which Rane was using as chief minister. The car would break down and on one occasion all of us including Khalap and me had to push it all the way up to the Dona Paula road.
Khalap is also from the Bhandari Samaj which accounts for the largest vote bank in north Goa. Thought Shripad Naik has been re-elected five times he has not been very effective as a MP or minister. The outcome in north Goa will depend on who gets the support of the Bhandari Samaj Swami Bhramanand.
Coming to Capt Viriato Fernandes who has been chosen as the south Goa candidate, he is a relatively unknown entity. Two captains, Viriato and Venzy, have been very active in south Goa politics in recent years. Capt Viriato is a hero of the Kargil war. It may be recalled that the then president of Pakistan, General Musharaf launched an attack to capture the Himalayan heights in Kargil which was a vantage point on the borderland. In Operation Vijay the Indian army managed to recapture the Kargil outpost. Interestingly, it was Prabha Dutt, a woman reporter of the “Times of India” who reported on the Kargil war. Prabha Dutt is the mother of the anchor Barkha Dutt.
Capt Viriato challenged Mauvin Godinho who contested on the BJP ticket in the 2022 Assembly elections. He lost by a narrow margin to Mauvin Godinho who had switched allegiance to the BJP. The other captain, Capt Venzy Viegas, won the Benaulim seat for the Aam Aadmi party. Capt Venzy unlike Capt Viriato is a merchant navy captain. Capt Viriato has started off on the wrong foot by attacking businesswoman Pallavi Dempo, the BJP candidate for the south Goa seat. Former army officers are a chivalrous lot. We cannot say this is true of Capt Viriato with his comment that Pallavi Dempo is a bad householder. Pallavi struck back on the gender insensitive remark. However, Capt Viriato could benefit from the anti-BJP wave in south Goa.
Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant has made it easier for the Congress. The BJP has failed to mobilize the support of the Congress rebels. They are not using Digambar Kamat effectively. Alex Sequeira who controls Nuvem, Raia, Loutalim and Verna is not campaigning for Pallavi Dempo . Pallavi is solely dependent on the non-existence of the BJP karyakarta. In south Goa there are no BJP karyakarta.

AND a few stray thoughts on the dumping of Francisco Sardinha. Sardinha who is the sitting MP wanted to contest again for the Congress but the High Command decided to retire him as he is in his late 70s. It is doubtful whether south Goa would have re-voted Sardinha for another term. Sardinha issued a defiant advertisement in the “OHeraldo,” with the ad carrying a large photograph of Sardinha declaring that he will continue to be the leader of the people of south Goa.
The efforts of state Congress leaders seem to have been to keep Sardinha and Girish out of the parliamentary elections. Girish tried very hard for the south Goa seat. He is a resident of Fatorda. He has been teaching in the higher secondary in the Guardian Angel School in Curchorim. He has a lot of support from grassroots Congress workers. Girish is also known to be close to Rahul Gandhi. Unfortunately, none of this has helped him to get the ticket. Girish was accused of match-fixing when he was GPCC president at the time of the 2022 elections. We understand that Amit Patkar and Yuri Alemao threatened to resign if Girish were to be given the ticket. Congressmen are very good at pulling each other down.

AND a few stray thoughts on the certified urban terroarist Sanjay Rodrigues who is the CEO of Panjim Smart Works. Sanjit has converted Panjim into a never ending battle zone. Most of Panjim city roads have been dug up and some are waiting to be dug up. In the latest insult to residents of Panjim, a 200 years old banyan tree was uprooted at St Inez and despite protests there’s a claim that the tree has been trans-located to the Campal grounds. Nobody wanted to give the banyan tree a chance of survival. If Smart City is going to come up at the cost of destroying whatever is left of its old green cover which kept it cool, Panjim residents don’t want any smart city.
The main thoroughfare of the Dayanand Bandodkar road from casinos wharfs to Miramar beach has always been lined with many old grand trees. I recall the artist-cum- cartoonist Alexyz Fernandes and others embracing these giant trees when an attempt was made to cut them down way back in the 90s. The residents of Panjim have always been conscious of their natural heritage of old world trees.
Sanjit Rodrigues is also on the fire for uprooting the crosses along St Inez. The crosses in Goa commemorate the memory of accident victims. Many of these crosses have been put up by rich bhatkar, some have grown into chapels and churches as with the case of the Bambolim cross. The Bambolim cross was put up to commemorate accident victims on the highway. It was built into a very profitable church by the late Fr Freddy of “Gulab “ fame. “Gulab” is a Konkani magazine brought out by him.
There is a small chapel at the Miramar circle which started off as just a plain cross. The smart city contractors have been hauled up by the Goa bench of the Bombay high court. The judges actually walked out to inspect the digging up road projects and undoubtedly they returned to their chambers clad in dust. The problem is that Sanjit is a victim of contractors. It has been a tradition for contractors to bribe their way and in the past they have got away with shoddy work.
Sanjit is a prisoner of the contractors. He cannot take any action because they are connected to top leaders of the BJP, as in the case of the leading contractor Venka Rao who donated Rs90lakh worth of election bonds to the BJP.

AND a few stray thoughts on domestic tourists rushing to Goa for cheap booze. We are not talking about only the tourists who flock to the beaches. This is the season when the summer holidays begin to build up. The SSC exams will soon be over. Schools are already on vacation. Goa is amongst the most popular destination for a family holiday. The starred hotels offer irresistible packages which include unlimited liquor. The adults and particularly the men drink themselves silly while the family goes out for sightseeing.
A very-popular destination are the spice farms which have converted themselves into entertainment zones. They also offer adventure sports like rapalling, etc. What was once the preserve of foreign tourists is attracting domestic tourists now. We are talking about the elephant rides and the elephant parks inside Mollem wildlife sanctuary and zoo which adjoin one another.
The heritage walks in Panjim city have started. Goa has become a major destination for fine dining and shopping. The latest attraction is the quiet village of Assagao which is considered the valley of lovers. Assagao reportedly has the largest number of fine dining place and high brow shopping outlets. In fact we think Assagao has replaced Baga and Candolim as shopping destinations.

AND a last stray thought for another Saturday. All of Modi’s guarantees have not improved India’s status on the Happiness Index of the world. Sweden tops the world in the Happiness Index. Closely followed by New Zealand. India has slipped down to minus 100 in the Happiness Index. Not surprisingly India’s ranking in the Happiness Index is conversely proportional to the health of the stock market index. Modi takes pride in the fact that the stock market index has tripped in the last ten years. This only means that the rich have become richer and the poor have become poorer. Bombay has the largest number of billionaires in Asia, beating even China and Japan. But conversely Mumbai has the largest number of slum dwellers in the country.

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