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Editorial

In Goa, the status quo of uncertainty has been retained

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So what really transpired in the week between Manohar Parrikar’s desire to step down as Chief Minister of Goa to the BJP president Amit Shah’s tweet stating that he would continue a Chief Minister? The drama, intrigue and the suspense ended in an anti climax, which retained the status quo of uncertainty.

The underlying sense that anyone with half an interest in Goa, gets is the acute feeling of inertia and sloth when the state and the administration does not feel the active presence of a hands on Chief Minister. Here, Parrikar’s style of working when he is in full form, becomes the albatross around the neck of Goa’s administration, in his absence.

While it was hoped that his “pancreatic ailment” would be handled in a  manner which would allow the Chief Minister to be back at even 60% of his working pace, unfortunately the reverse seems to be happening. Importantly, in the absence of health updates, including a full disclosure of his health status (with everyone knowing the nature and perhaps even the extent of his what is plaguing him), his condition is gauged by the number of times he has had to dart in and out of hospital and the frequent unscheduled hospital admissions, immediately after returning from a hospital. Now Mr Parrikar is an extremely proud man and his biggest concern, more than his ailment, will be to project that he is fit and active to carry out the state’s responsibilities. However, it became increasingly difficult to maintain that front on the day he returned from his second longish stint in the US, waited for the urn containing the ashes of Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the Bombay airport and accompanied it to Goa and in less than 24 hours, rushed back to the Lilavati hospital in Mumbai, with his ailment acting up leading to several problems of indigestion.Within a day, he had to be sent back to New York. While the less humane have attacked the government for the expenditure it is incurring on Mr Parrikar’s frequent travel and treatment in the USA, let’s spare a thought about the sheer physical strain on a man who has has visibly weakened.

Goa’s pain is the tussle between Chief Minister Parrikar’s need to have his omnipresence in governance, and patient Parrikar’s compulsion to answer to the crying need of his body for treatment. And it is this tussle that his party, the BJP hasn’t handled all too well. Their manner of treating this as not too serious health setback, which can be sorted by a few odd visits to the hospital and flying to the US (“for indigestion problems”, in the words of a prominent party leader), has actually alienated people, who feel that they have not been treated as well wishers and family members who have right to be felt included. This is different from exercising the right to Information. This is about inclusion.

The politics around the Chief Minister’s illness has also served to highlight divisions within the BJP. It has displayed almost a Congress like approach to identifying or claiming leadership. While obviously not overt, there were the following groups and contenders eyeing at being either Deputy CM or Acting CM or a full CM, essentially getting as close to the top job as possible. But there were reservations to downright opposition to each claimant or hopeful. Shripad Naik has held positions in the union cabinet more than any other Goan politician and has a right to feel shortchanged. It is believed that Manohar Parrikar came between Naik and his Chief Ministership, when the former moved to Delhi to become India’s Defence Minister and narrowed down the choice between Rajendra Arlekar and Laxmikant Parsekar. Parsekar ruled as Parrikar’s understudy and then gradually fell out with each him. Arlekar, who became Speaker and Minister moved into self imposed political wilderness, did expect to be drawn into the vortex of possible choices for two reasons. His seniority has the same vintage as Parrikar’s and he has led the party in Goa and been amongst the main think tank of the party with very close links to the RSS. But to be honest, he wasn’t on top of the charts. However within the BJP the OBC and backward caste grouping, was hoping that a leader from the  weaker sections should get a chance to restore the perception that upper caste leaders have a greater chance at leadership. State President Vinay Tendulkar, fancied his chances as a dark horse, from the non upper caste sections and interestingly, the allies were not too averse to him.

Meanwhile there were other claimants who probably had a stronger claim by virtue of being MLA. Young turk Vishwajit Rane made an all out effort and was the first of the lobbyists who positioned himself as the young face to take the party forward inspite of being a wet behind the years young entrant into the party. The old guard as well as the allies specially Goa Forward would never have accepted even the possibility of Rane been pitchforked. In any case they had a strong handle of opposition since their support is to a Parrikar led government only and not to a BJP government.

At the same time two of the prominet Catholic MLAs, Michael Lobo and Nilesh Cabral too felt that they had a chance edge wise in the event the BJP took a radical decision to have a Catholic Chief Minister for a national grand standing to fight the anti minority perception.

But it’s also clear there was no clear face, an obvious leader who could take over and lead the BJP to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and then subsequently to the Assembly polls of 2022. So when the three central observers met MLAs and the core committee over two days last week and returned they had two sets of challenges

a) Get a leader and a leadership team which would be politically strong and administratively super efficient and

b) Have a floor strength which would enable them to take decisions without threats.

In this scenario the role of the Goa Forward Part would be important. An unlikely ally in the beginning, the GFP has stood steadfastly behind the BJP even during the time of uncertainty over Mr Parrikar’s continuity as CM.

MGP’s Sudin Dhavlikar was less charitable. He even begged with  the BjP observers to make him CM taking off his shirt to show the stiches on his body as a result of a major operation, to get sympathy.There was always a chance that in utter desperation Dhavlikar may make a move against them.

While the BJP still had the numbers it knew that Sardesai would go with them upto a point. Any major deviation or forcing a CM not to his liking was a recipie for a parting of ways. Also with 3 ministers including the CM on sick beds the party got nervous even with moves of the  Congress to serve a notice to move a resolution to impeach the speaker.

At the same time the search for a leader who would hold rhe party together continued to remain futile. And importantly Manohar Parrikar dithered and and finally refused to let go, and the party, mainly the Prime Minister (and not so much Amit Shah) went along with him.

So it’s status quo cuo now. But the unease and uncertainty continues for the ruling party.

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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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Editorial

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.

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