‘Parliament is political rehabilitation for Goa’s politicos’

Ex PWD minister Churchill Alemao may be plotting his political comeback, however, the regional political players in Salcete, considered to be the heartland of Goa's politics, have taken his announcement with a pinch of salt, even as they lamented the tendency of Goa's politicians of looking at the Parliamentary polls as a means of political rehabilitation for candidates defeated in the assembly elections.

Secretary general of the United Goans Democratic Party (UGDP), Anacleto Viegas, speaking to TOI, was quite vocal in his view that people who have lost the mandate of the electorate, particularly those candidates who are facing charges of corruption against them, should not be allowed to go to Parliament.

"Such candidates should be weeded out, they should be shown their place by the electorate. The Lok Sabha should not have such types of elements. What will happen to India then?" Viegas said, adding that if Alemao is given a ticket by the Congress to contest the Parliamentary elections, "that will only reflect badly on the Congress party".

Anton Gaonkar, a leader of the Save Goa Front (SGF), the regional outfit on which Alemao had contested the 2007 assembly polls from Navelim and won, was also critical of Alemao's plans of contesting the Parliamentary polls.

"One of the main reasons for Congress' debacle in the assembly elections was the issue of 'family raj' or dynasty politics. I fail to understand, how Churchill will be able to convince the people to elect him to Parliament, when he has been handed a humiliating defeat by the voters barely a few months ago. This only goes to show that Churchill is unable to survive without power even for a short while," Gaonkar said.

Independent candidate, Vijai Sardesai, who has, of late, been advocating the view that regional forces in the state should come together, also concurred with the view that the growing tendency of defeated candidates at assembly elections eyeing to contest Parliamentary polls was not a healthy indication for the state's development.

"Churchill is, no doubt, a formidable candidate having a wide reach in the constituency, but the million dollar question, or rather the Rs 35,000 crore question (referring, in jest, to the scale of the illegal mining as pointed out by the Shah commission) is whether the Congress will give him the ticket," Sardesai said. In the same breath, he added "Parliamentary seat should not be looked upon as political rehabilitation of defeated candidates. Such candidates, if elected, end up in not putting their best while representing the state. When you do not put in your best, you sometimes do not get the required recognition. What happens is that when you lose the assembly seat and then go to Parliament, you do not perform well there as your sight is set on the seat that you have lost. As you try half-heartedly, you don't get recognized adequately, and the state loses in the long run," Sardesai said.

A knowledgeable source in political circles, however, said that the Churchill's re-emergence on the political horizon was just one of his old tactics to exert pressure on the Congress leadership to award the party ticket to his daughter, Valanka.

"It appears that he is banking on the disqualification petition filed against the Benaulim MLA, Caitano Silva to go in Valanka's favour. If that happens, he might strike a deal with the Congress (probably like agreeing to make his rival within the party as the state Congress chief) and demand a ticket for Valanka as his pound of flesh. And if and when there is a vacancy for the Benaulim seat (in case Silva is disqualified) he will try to come in there," the source said. Political sources felt that if that really was Alemao's plan, it is unlikely to succeed, for two reasons – one, the local Congress leadership will prefer to keep Alemao at bay, so as not to further antagonize its voters, and two, the Congress party leadership at the centre – especially after Rahul Gandhi taking charge of the party affairs – is unlikely to give in to Churchill's demands.

A political commentator, who preferred anonymity, was of the view that the formula for revival of the Congress party was to look beyond dynasty politics and nurture young leadership. [TOI]