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Girish Chodankar, the man who is keeping the BJP govt going in Goa

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The Congress in Goa has adopted one of the most immature brand of politics. It is not just losing allies, but positioning itself as  a party which is becoming untouchable to allies, because of the manner in which it has gone about alienating,  at least one of its allies, the Goa Forward party. On the other hand party leaders have attacked the PWD minister Sudin Dhavlikar of the MGP, in a manner which has left him fuming. The only hope that the Congress has left, is not because of anything that it has done but because the BJP has undone  a lot by  its inertia on choosing  a successor for Manohar Parrikar and allocating fresh portfolios.

The Congress has actually made itself a political laughing stock by constantly saying they are ready to form the government, and in the same breath losing MLAs. At the same it goes about taking on the Goa Forward, much more than the BJP itself. It’s a strange form of politics which is beyond commonsense political logic. It all boils to a long standing political hatred the GPCC president Girish Chodankar has with the Goa Forward President Vijai Sardesai. And shockingly, this has actually become the albatross around the neck of the party in forging any discussions with the Goa Forward party.  A deep rooted personal-political rivalry, fuelled mainly by Chodankar, is defining a relationship between two political parties, which should ideally be centered around what works for both of them. Here, one is deliberately holding back, using the catchphrase “in the interest of Goa”, because the politics of today, including the manner in which governments are formed or numbers in the assembly altered, has very little to do with Goa’s interests.

The Goa Congress’ alienation with the Goa Forward party peaked when Luizinho Faleiro was the GPCC president. We all know how in the run up to the last assembly elections, there was a bloody political war on the streets of Margao, Navelim, Velim and Saligao, with  the Congress and the Goa Forward focusing their energies, strategy and political tricks to outwit each other.

After the elections, the Congress realizing that government formation under Luizinho Faleiro would be impossible due to his posturing of keeping the Goa Forward at bay, replaced him with Shantaram Naik. The party, at that time, boasted that the Congress would form a government in a day. That, not surprisingly rang hollow. Under Shantaram Naik, the party went into a further tailspin, with all senior leaders actually biding time, waiting for things to happen. After Shantaram Naik’s unfortunate demise, Girish Chodankar was brought in – a  relatively younger and energetic face- with the primary objective of trying to get a shot at power.

But Chodankar also got into his own mesh and false one upmanship. He attempted to be the political version of an alpha male, performing political miracles as he talked about forming the government without the Goa Forward party. He actually worked overtime to increase the divide with Goa Forward, whose support the Congress would need if it hopes to form a government, especially since it doesn’t know whether the MLAs the party had at dinner time would remain the same the next morning during breakfast time.

This reaches ridiculous proportions at times. The Congress MLA from Curtorim Alexio Reginaldo Lourenco invited people on his birthday to a restaurant in South Goa. Girish Chodankar reached there to find that Vijai Sardesai would also be dropping in. He soon left before Sardesai arrived. Sardesai then spent a part of the evening with the leader of the opposition and Congress MLA from Quepem, Babu Kavlekar at Reginaldo Lourenco’s party. A nervous Girish Chodankar, asked one of his handpicked people Amarnath Panjikar to address a press conference the next day, just to state that the Congress will not join hands with the Goa Forward Party.

At the same time Chodankar has attacked Sudin Dhavlikar on the pace of construction of the Zuari bridge and IT minister Rohan Khuante on the Serula  communidade land grab case. One Congressman, as is his wont, articulated this beautifully “We are not an activist group or an NGO. We must know when to attack and when to strategise. Chodankar has no sense of this. How does he plan to form a government if all he does is, handpicks key allies of this government who can potentially be Congress’ allies, and attacks them”. He went on to add “If the Congress could not form a government with 17 MLAs, and then 16, is there any hope with 14 except get both the Goa Forward and MGP on its side, along with independents? We are actually keeping the BJP government alive, by ensuring that there is no alternative, by the way our president is antagonising  BJP’s allies”. Asked if replacing Chodankar, would help, he quipped “Well, that would at least be a beginning”

At a time when the Congress should have been closing in to form a government, it finds itself hopelessly out of political ideas and buried under personal ego clashes. Girish Chodankar,  a man of potential promise, has been a huge disappointment.  The BJP should thank him.

Editorial

People’s confidence in the quality of fish will be restored, only when safety mechanisms are visible and implemented

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The Goa government was quick to realise that the complete ban on fish imports would have led to absolute chaos in the market as well as a fierce backlash from locals, especially those who are preparing for weddings in their families and wriggled out of a an extremely messy problem by putting an all important caveat in their fishing ban order, stating that only fish which did not comply with the Food Safety and  Standard Act would be banned.

However the order, by no means is the final solution to the fish- formalin crisis. What it has done though it has prevented a massive escalation of prices and a severe shortage of fish for local consumption. But it still leaves all stakeholders with work to do and the state government to ensure much higher degrees of monitoring and compliance. Unless that is visible, there will be no restoration of confidence in the market.

This is what the Fisheries department needs to do

1)    Set up fish testing units (mini labs) at the Margao wholesale fish market and all other markets

2)    Have testing kits at all check points in the state with CCTV cameras and staff where every vehicle carrying fish is inspected and the inspection video and results and transmitted real time to the central control room, which should ideally be in Margao

3)    The government should proactively break the presence of a fish import cartel and ensure that there is no monopoly over imports and that all business is not concentrated by force in the hands of a cartel of fish traders. Import of fish should be transparent and without any coercion.

4)    There should be no flooding of the markets of imported fish. In fact priority should be given to the fish catch in Goa which can be sold in the Goan markets and only after the arrival of local fish, should imported fish be allowed to come in

5)    Work towards a long term course correction by seriously looking into the problem of LED fishing which has resulted in a severe depletion of fish catch in the Goan waters. Getting the fish which Goans like by enabling fishermen to go and procure them has to be a priority, which has been often blocked by fish import cartels.

Most importantly, the crisis needs joint interdepartmental coordination and synergy, by setting up a unified command centre for all decisions consisting of the health and fisheries and transport.

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Editorial

Sujay’s Take 8 : On Rebellion within BJP Goa

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Founding editor Sujay Gupta’s video editorial on the stand taken by senior BJP leaders including Francis D’Souza, Laxmikant Parsekar, Mahadev Naik and Dayanand Mandrekar spells clear divide in the saffron party’s local unit. Where will BJP head for after the current crisis?

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On jobs, Michael Lobo has hit BJP where it hurts

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The vocal Calangute MLA Michael Lobo has the penchant for making remarks which have made the ruling BJP coalition uncomfortable. He has at times taken sides and batted for those who are fundamentally at loggerheads both with the government and the general public, in order to protect his constituency interests, like the powerful taxi operators lobby.

But when he castigated his own BJP government for its inability to clear pending jobs, he hit at a core issue, which has and continues to hurt the BJP- jobs.

 In an internal organisation exercise conducted by the BJP before the 2017 elections, it was revealed that the inability to create jobs stood out as the single biggest unkempt promise. This was uniformly consistent throughout the state. The BJP tried to offset this by harping on its social welfare schemes like Griha Aadhar, Ladli Lakshmi and the Dayananad Social Security scheme. But in the 2017 elections, the votes of women, especially in rural areas were no match for the anger of the youth, hungry for government jobs. At the same time private sector employment, which was expected to offer 50,000 jobs, did not see the light of day. The precarious job situation, was the elephant in the room the BJP, as a party did recognize but did not realize the damage this elephant could cause.

A part of the problem lies with the socio political terrain. Historically political parties have co-related job creation with votes. The Congress has, more often than not, led the way, filling up vacancies in Power, PWD and Health just before elections. Prior to the 2012 elections, there was a mass back dated hiring spree, to circumvent the dates of the election code of conduct,  of linesmen in the power department, by the Congress government, most of them from the constituency of Power Minister Alexio Sequeira.

That trend continues even as the world changes. After the 2017 debacle, the BJP government, realising that promises of job creation, will be difficult to fulfill, changed tack and proposed the mantra of people becoming ‘job creators’ and not ‘job seekers’, in line with the state’s start up policy. The policy guidelines stated “The coalition government now wants its people to be ‘job creators rather than job seekers’  a dream concept of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’. The Startup Policy, which aims to make Goa feature among the top 25 destinations for early stage companies in Asia by 2025.

What was missed was the fine print. The start- up policy cannot be a substitute for government job creation from the political point of view. In modern developing societies, the trend is to move towards self starting and entrepreneurship coupled with merit based jobs. Goa will hopefully get there.

“The country has been dragged through 10 years of Jobless Growth by the Congress-led UPA Government,” the BJP had said in its manifesto for the 2014 general election, “Under the broader economic revival, BJP will accord high priority to job creation and opportunities for entrepreneurship.”

But in a society where for over fifty years, the government has been the greatest employer and provider, it will take a long time for young hopefuls to look at themselves as self starters, when the easy option to go to the local ruling party MLA or minister exists. And the local politician isn’t quite interested in creating a Goa of serial entrepreneurs, he is interested in ensuring a steady supply of votes by dangling the every productive carrot of jobs.

It’s a political need. And the BJP by being unable to fulfill this need in Goa, has invited the frustration of MLAs belonging to the party as well as the allies. Therefore Calangute MLA Michael Lobo’s missive to Chief Minister Parrikar about his frustration at job vacancies in the government not being filled, has hit the BJP where it hurts, its future electoral prospects.

Speaking to reporters three days ago Lobo said that if Parrikar’s health did not permit him to function, then he should hand over the responsibility (of running the state) to someone else as “people are very disturbed due to unemployment”. “I hope my voice goes to his ears, and he clears the jobs quickly because the youth of Goa are waiting to apply for jobs”, Lobo said
Interestingly, Lobo batted for the allies, and his long standing closeness to the Goa Forward party is well known. He said “this government was formed with allies. Now, the allies are wondering what is going on, because they are also answerable to the people”

His statements drew quick reaction from the ailing Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. Inspite of his weakness and ill health, he called Lobo to Delhi to apparently give him a soft dressing down and promised to address the job issue by this month end.

But it is clear that the job fiasco will be the bane of the government since it is creates direct discontentment. It hits because this offsets any other achievement the government plans to showcase. At the time when the government is vulnerable and its second line of leadership not chalked out, an attack on unavailable jobs by its own senior MLA, was the last thing the BJP would have expected. It surely had the “ouch” effect.

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