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Goa- Secularism Under Threat

By Rajan Narayan

25 March, 2004
Goan Observer

The BJP Lotus has no doubt bloomed and blossomed in Goa because
successive Congress regimes have reduced the State to a cesspool of
corruption and political opportunism. But the BJP lotus in the State is
also tainted by the same brush. A party and a political leader who swore
by clean politics and good governance has made a mockery of both. The
BJP was not elected to power in the State, contrary to what the Chief
Minister Manohar Parrikar claims. The party grabbed power by cynically
engaging in the same kind of toppling games that it had accused the
Congress of indulging in.

The BJP and its fascist leader Manohar Parrikar swore by good
governance. During his first tenure in office, and even while he was
plotting and scheming to grab power, he wore the mask of being a
moderate among the hawks who dominated the BJP. The mask has fallen
apart and recently the highest Court in the State itself confirmed our
repeated charges that the BJP government in the State has been
systematically and consistently discriminating against the minorities in
recruitment to government jobs including the police force.

'Mr. Clean' Manohar Parrikar has displayed an infinite tolerance for
corruption engaged in by his ministerial colleagues. Instead of
responding to charges that his government has extended undue favors to
his kith and kin, the Chief Minister sought to silence the entire media
in the State. The man who professed humility and promised transparency
has turned into a despot. Who believes he knows best what is good for
the people as dramatized by his persistent refusal to take even elected
members of the Corporation of the City of Panjim, let alone citizens
into confidence about his grandiose plans for converting Panjim into a
Singapore. The fascist streak in him was exposed in his approach to the
High Court?s directives on the rehabilitation of the sex workers of
Baina. The Chief Minister has been talking of 'erasing Baina'.

The pond in which the lotus has flourished in the country and in Goa is
full of the blood of the victims of the holocaust unleashed by Narendra
Modi during the post-Godhra riots. The Supreme Court has concurred with
the perception of secularists that the Modi government in Gujarat has
connived in the intimidation of witnesses and the subversion of justice
to the victims of the post-Godhra riots. The road to the Modit-visation
of Gujarat and the country began in Goa at the meeting of the BJP
executive committee held in Goa in the year 2001. It was at this meeting
that the hardliners in the BJP, headed by L.K. Advani, demanded the
return of the party to the hardcore fundamentalist line.


The BJP party has proved to be masters of deception. For strategic
reasons, they downplayed controversial issues like Ayodhya during the
Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. But on
achieving power, the new BJP Chief Minister in Madhya Pradesh, Uma
Bharati, lost no time in pursuing the Hindutva agenda. Heading her list
of priorities has been the holy cow and the holding of a massive Kumbh
Mela type yagna in Ujjain. At a recent interview, during the course of
the rath yatra, the Union Home Minister L.K. Advani made no bones about
his close association with the RSS and his commitment to Hindutva.

The BJP in Goa has been engaged in systematically polarizing Goan
society on communal lines. It has been as assiduous in promoting
corruption as predecessor Congress regimes. It has been as ruthless and
manipulative as the Congress has been in the past. The myth of good
governance promised by Manohar Parrikar has long since been exploded.
There is no doubt in our minds that if the BJP wins both the
Parliamentary seats in Goa, it will redouble its efforts to impose its
not-so-hidden agenda on Goa as it is done in other parts of the country.
The first and immediate target of the saffron brigade will be the
minorities. That is why it is imperative that all secular forces in the
State should come together to stop the saffron plague.


The congress is no doubt mired in corruption and bitter inter-personal
rivalry in the State. The senior leaders of the Congress who have looted
and plundered the State are vulnerable and are being blackmailed by the
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. Regrettably, leaders of the minority
community belonging to other Opposition groups like the Nationalist
Congress and the UGDP have chosen to collaborate and collude with the
BJP in their own personal interests. We can understand the
disillusionment and the disenchantment of the people of Goa with the
Congress. But in the run up to the Parliamentary elections, the key
issue is what is more dangerous? A corrupt Congress or a fascist,
communal BJP? Goa?s USP has been its tradition of communal harmony and
fusion. If this is destroyed it will be the death knell of Goa.

The battle lines are drawn. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has
announced its candidates for both the North Goa and the South Goa
Parliamentary seats. Shripad Naik, the sitting Member of Parliament from
North Goa and Ramakant Angle, his counterpart in South Goa, have both
been renominated. The BJP has already begun campaigning earnestly. Even
aggressively and vehemently. Mini-raths bearing larger than life
pictures of the candidates with the Prime Minister Vajpayee and the Home
Minister L.K. Advani have already started doing the rounds. Late on
Saturday evening, when I returned home, there was a huge mobile hoarding
parked right on the Dona Paula circle exhorting support for Shripad

Long before the official announcement of the candidates, the BJP had
already begun the preparatory work. Scores of computer programmers from
Mumbai have been analyzing the electoral rolls. And interpreting them
with the help of the BJP and RSS cadres at the constituency and even the
booth level. The BJP has formed booth level committees which are
expected to play the most crucial role in the campaign. The booth level
committees are armed with detailed information. The community and
caste-wise break-up of the voters. In the case of minority community
voters, details have been provided as to how many are away in the Gulf,
how many are at sea and how many will actually exercise their franchise.
The few Muslim minority pockets in Margao and elsewhere have also been
identified. Digambar Kamat, in any case, has been wooing the Muslim
population of Margao for quite some time now.

The cadres of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar at the constituency level,
the taluka level and even the booth level, have precise data on the
number of migrant workers, the number of slums, the identity of the slum
lords. The number of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe workers. The
number of voters who have benefited from the Dayanand old age pension
scheme. The names of those who have been given jobs in the police and
other departments in the recruitments carried out since Manohar Parrikar
became the Chief Minister. The names of those who have completed their
pre-employment training and the others who are in the process of being
trained. No party in Goa has bothered to keep itself as well informed of
the minutest details of the electorate as the BJP has done in the run up
to the current election.

The information will be used efficiently and ruthlessly. The BJP
think-tank has it all worked out. How many votes need to be paid for?
How many voters can be intimidated into supporting the BJP candidates?
Who are the parish priests and the maulvis who are sympathetic or at
least neutral? How many of them can be induced to support the BJP
candidates by gifts in cash or kind. Just as importantly, how many of
the hostile voters can be kept away from the polling stations. How bogus
votes can be cast in the names of those who will not be able to exercise
their franchise because they are away on a ship or working abroad.
Nothing has been left to chance. Not even the responses of the
Opposition. In fact, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the BJP is
dictating and orchestrating the behaviour of its Trojan horses in the

I understand that the initial proposal that the Congress should abdicate
the North Goa seat and instead offer it to the MGP geminated from the
fertile and energetic imagination of Manohar Parrikar. It was Manohar
Parrikar?s agent in the Congress Party, the Leader of Opposition (LOO),
Pratapsing Raoji Rane who most vigorously promoted the suggestion that
the Congress should support an MGP candidate in North Goa. There was
considerable pressure on Pratapsing Raoji Rane to accept the Congress
nomination for the North Goa Parliamentary seat. Pratapsing Rane is
painfully aware of the consequences of entering into a confrontation
with Manohar Parrikar. As in the case of everyone else, Parrikar has a
detailed dossier on Rane?s family, particularly his son, Vish-wajit
Rane. Unfortunately for Rane, his rivals within the Congress Party
exposed the conspiracy. Sonia Gandhi, on being told why Rane was so
enthusiastic about sacrificing the seat to the MGP, apparently vetoed
the plan.


In the south, the BJP is aware of the fact that it cannot hope to win
unless it splits the minority vote. And Radharao Gracias and Francisco
Montecruz were only too willing to oblige the saffron brigade. A deal
was struck with Radharao. Montecruz had no choice but to fall in with
the gang. He has too much at stake. He owes a lot of money to the EDC.
He has been more than a little remiss in paying his excise duties for
his Belo beer. So it was decided that Monte-cruz will aid and abet the
BJP in splitting the minority vote. But apparently in the wake of the
exposure of the conspiracy by the Goan Observer, Parrikar wants to make
doubly sure that the BJP candidate Ramakant Angle will win. Parrikar is
aware that Angle is a weak candidate. He has not bothered to keep in
touch with his constituents. His performance in Parliament has been
pathetic. So Parrikar has been trying to spread further confusion in the
opposition camp or rather the Congress camp. With the help of his other
Trojan horse Dr. Wilfred D'Souza. I understand that it was Parrikar who
has been instigating the senile NCP chief into making periodic
statements about the seat sharing arrangement with the Congress at the
national level. With the implied threat that Dr. Wilfred D'Souza will
stake his claim to the South Goa Parliamentary seat. Curiously, even
after the Congress Party made an official announcement on Churchill
Alemao?s candidature in South Goa, Willy continues to claim that the
issue is still open. Cleary the strategy is to confuse and demoralize
Churchill Alemao and the Congress Party.

In the South, the BJP strategy is to divide and rule. Split the minority
vote to attempt to ensure that a lacklustre candidate like Ramakant
Angle is able to retain his seat. The BJP will also put maximum pressure
on its other allies in the South. Micky Pacheco has already committed
himself to campaigning vigorously for the BJP candidate, not only in
Benaulim, but in Curtorim and Loutolim as well. Which has provoked an
uncharacteristically sharp response from Alex Sequeira, the sitting MLA
from Loutolim who has just stopped short of calling Micky a buffoon.
Mathany is being a little more discreet, but has been singing the
praises of Parrikar and will no doubt throw his weight behind Ramakant
Angle. So will Felipe Neri, the independent MLA from Velim who is a
member of the Parrikar cabinet. So the going seems a little tough for
the official Congress candidate Churchill Alemao. Made even tougher by
the fact that there are many within the Congress Party who are likely to
work against him.

IN THE North, it would appear a cakewalk for Shripad Naik. The great
advantage that Shripad Naik has is that everyone, even people in the
Opposition, like him. In fact it is almost impossible to dislike Shripad
Naik. He is a simple person. And power has not gone to his head. He has
retained his humility. Shripad never throws his weight around. Even when
he was physically attacked by some young men close to his residence who
were angry with him for overtaking and the manner in which he was
driving his car, the Union minister did not press charges against them.
Even though he was quite badly battered and bruised. Shripad is as
popular and liked as Manohar Parrikar is unpopular and disliked. Shripad
always or almost always comes on time for the functions he is supposed
to preside over. When he is the host, he is there to greet even the
early bird. Unlike Manohar Parrikar who thinks nothing of coming two
hours later, even at functions where he is the host.

Shripad?s simplicity, genuine humility and good humor, makes up for his
other lapses. Shripad is not considered particularly efficient or
effective. He has been shuffled around like a pack of cards in the
Central cabinet. He began with agriculture, was shifted to shipping,
zoomed up into the skies as Minister of State for Aviation, came down
literally to earth as Minister of State for Surface Transport, and now
occupies the position of Minister of State for Finance. Shripad was
moved around, not because of his competence. On the contrary, he kept
getting moved from ministry to ministry because the Prime Minister was
aware that his presence or absence would make no difference to the
ministry. At the same time, nobody wanted to drop him from the ministry
altogether. He is too sweet a person to hurt.

Shripad has another major advantage when it comes to retaining the North
Goa seat. I understand that the Bhandari Samaj is fully behind him. He
apparently, even has the blessing of the Bhandari Swamy based in Marcel.
There was apparently a secret conclave of prominent leaders of the
Bhandari Samaj about a week ago. At which Ravi Naik, the prospective
Congress candidate, was told to lay off. It was apparently pointed out
to him that courtesy Shripad Naik, the Bhandari Samaj had representation
in the Central cabinet. And the probability being that the BJP coalition
will come back to power, the Bhandari Samaj would like Shripad to be
re-elected. It was pointed out to Ravi Naik that during the Assembly
elections, the Samaj had backed him against Shripad Naik. Ravi Naik?s
reluctance to contest is not because if his alleged medical problems.
Ravi does not want to be accused of splitting the Bhandari Samaj. He
will need their support when it comes to the Assembly polls. As far as
the Bhandaris are concerned, it suits them to have one leg in the BJP
and the other in the Congress.

As of now, all indications are that the BJP will have little or no
problem retaining the North Goa seat. And if all the good Christaos fail
to see through the selfish Judas games of all those who are seeking to
split the minority vote, the BJP may bag the South Goa seat as well.
Even if the Christaos in South Goa do not fall a prey to the
machinations of Radha, Monte and Willy, there is still a problem. It
takes money to win an election and a lot of it. The BJP is flush with
funds. Winning the two Goa Parliamentary seats is a matter of prestige,
not only for Manohar Parrikar but for his mentor, Pramod Mahajan. A lot
of the BJP top brass believes that it is Goa that led the way to the
resurgence of the Party. So even if industrialists and builders in Goa
are reluctant to part with money, Mahajan will ensure that there will be
no paucity of funds.


Conversely, the Congress has a serious problem with money. Churchill is
virtually bankrupt. During his time, Churchill made a lot of money. But
he has also given away a lot of money. There are many senior Congress
leaders who made a lot of money. None of them however are willing to
part with any of it. As far as the Congress High Command is concerned,
it has never been very generous with money. At least in the case of Goa,
the High Command representatives have extorted money from prospective
candidates, but never brought in any money for ensuring the victory of
Congress candidates. Unlike the BJP High Command, the Congress High
Command does not take Goa seriously. The State has just two seats. So
why waste time and effort which could be more productively used in
neighboring Maharashtra or Karnataka for instance.

The Congress campaign is yet to get underway. So far, the campaign
comprises only of press conferences. And since senior Congress leaders
have very little new to say in every successive press conference, even
the media is losing interest. The Congress has set up a think tank
headed by Uday Bhembre, along with people like N. Shivdas and other
luminaries. The think-tank has yet to start thinking. If the BJP wins,
it will not be because the people want the BJP. Or that the BJP is the
stronger party. If the BJP wins, it will be because the Congress did not
even make a pretense of putting up a fight. And because the minorities
were taken on by Manohar Parrikar?s false claims of transparent and good


Courtesy: Harsh Kapoor/SACW