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Goa minister slams CM for ‘reversal in stand’ on special status for Goa

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Panaji: A minister from Goa has slammed the state’s Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar for ruling out the possibility of granting special status to Goa. The Chief Minister and BJP president Amit Shah had made remarks, eliminating the possibility of ascribing a special status to Goa, in order to preserve the state’s unique identity.

Amit Shah, during his two-day visit to Goa last week, had indicated that he was not in favor of taking an immediate decision on Goa’s special status issue and that the demand would be bunched along with similar demands from other states.

Parsekar on Sunday had virtually ruled out the demand saying demanding special status was equivalent to chasing a “mirage”.

While the opposition has criticised the BJP-led governments in the state and the centre for making a u-turn on the special status promise, a Goa minister has now joined the chorus against her own chief minister.

Speaking to IANS, Forest and Environment Minister Alina Saldanha said that Parsekar’s comments describing the possibility of special status for Goa as a “mirage” were personal.

“Honourable chief minister is not as well versed with the issue as then chief minister Manohar Parrikar. He (Parrikar) knew the issue inside out,” Saldanha said.

“The chief minister should remember that he was a signatory to resolution. He was the state health minister at the time. Did he think it was a mirage then too?” asks Prajal Sakhardande, president of NGO Goa Movement for Special Status, of which Saldanha is a part.

For the last few years, the demand for special status for Goa has been doing the rounds in the political and social circles in the state, which has been facing challenges stemming from rapid in-migration, shrinking land resources and a resultant dilution of identity.

In 2014, Sakhardande had headed a delegation which met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when the latter was campaigning for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and submitted a memorandum citing reasons for granting Goa special status.

Saldanha has insisted that Goa’s demography could change forever if special status, which bars non-Goans from buying land in Goa, is not bestowed on the state.

“When are we going to wake up? Goa’s unique identity is in the process of being wiped out,” she said, adding that real estate lobbies in India metros who were keen on selling land and apartments on premium in Goa were stalling the process.

The opposition has already slammed the BJP volte face, with former union minister of state for law Ramakant Khalap claiming that as far as the BJP goes, “this is the end of the road as far as special status is concerned”.

Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson Oscar Rebello said that regarding special status, “the BJP leaders only choose to make vague statements about safeguarding cultural identity while ignoring the real issue that is about land”.

(With inputs from IANS)

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The Challenges Ahead of Pramod Sawant, The New Chief Minister of Goa

Sawant also faces the tricky challenge of handling the mining ban crisis, which impacts several hinterland constituencies. He needs to address sluggishness in the administration and decision-making, which had been hampered by Parrikar's long illness. 

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Pramod Sawant
The Chief Minister Pramod Sawant hails from the Sanquelim Assembly constituency. Wikimedia Commons

A touching scene, reminiscent of an episode from the epic Ramayana played out in Goa last week after Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s death.

When his successor, Pramod Sawant, kicked-off his first day in office with a framed photograph of Parrikar placed in a chair alongside, one could draw rough parallels to the sequence in the great epic where King Bharata placed Lord Rama’s ‘padukas’ (wooden footwear) on the throne when his elder brother was banished from Ayodhya.

In Sawant’s case however, Parrikar who died on March 17 after a prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer, isn’t coming back. And the crown of thorns, which the new Chief Minister now wears, is bound to test the abilities of the Ayurveda practitioner-turned politician, who finds himself thrust headlong into a vortex of challenges. The first test for Sawant is the clutch of elections for two Lok Sabha seats and three Assembly by-polls.

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It has been unable to restart mining operations for a year, after the Supreme Court banned all iron ore extraction. These are just the issues which Sawant faces at home and the outdoors isn’t hunky dory either. Pixabay

The Chief Minister hails from the Sanquelim Assembly constituency, where he is on shaky grounds and engaged in a turf war with his own Minister for Health Vishwajit Rane, who defeated a municipal panel floated by Sawant last year. Sanquelim is a part of the mining belt in North Goa, where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is no longer sure of its footing.

It has been unable to restart mining operations for a year, after the Supreme Court banned all iron ore extraction. These are just the issues which Sawant faces at home and the outdoors isn’t hunky dory either.

Relatively young at 45, Sawant has never been a minister. Now, as Chief Minister his troubleshooting skills will be tested with battle-hardened coalition leaders like Vijai Sardesai of the Goa Forward. From within the party, challenges could come from Rane and Michael Lobo, who harbour aspirations of being chief minister.

Through swift moves, Sawant, on Wednesday oversaw the merger of two out of the three MGP MLAs into the BJP, thus taking the sting out of senior MGP leader Sudin Dhavalikar, who was also gunning for the chief ministership. The daring midnight split in the MGP provides a new sharp dimension to Sawant’s leadership.

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The first test for Sawant is the clutch of elections for two Lok Sabha seats and three Assembly by-polls. Pixabay

Sawant also faces the challenges of ‘Congressisation’ within the BJP in Goa. This refers to the induction of several Congressmen in its legislative ranks in the recent past, leaving very few legislators that the RSS and the state leadership, in the absence of Parrikar, can really trust.

He is among the few Goa BJP leaders whom party workers can call their own, considering that the party has generally dithered from giving senior management responsibilities to its six Catholic MLAs.

Also Read: Study Claims, China Shifts Away From Coal-Fired Power Plants Due To Environmental Concerns

Sawant also faces the tricky challenge of handling the mining ban crisis, which impacts several hinterland constituencies. He needs to address sluggishness in the administration and decision-making, which had been hampered by Parrikar’s long illness.

Perhaps the most tricky challenge confronting the new Chief Minister would possibly come in the near future when or if Parrikar’s reluctant son and Sawant’s friend, Utpal, takes the political plunge and contests the Panaji seat, which his late father represented since 1994. With Utpal already being talked about as a Chief Minister in the making by the party cadre, whether Sawant will continue or, like King Bharata in the Ramayana, sacrifice his throne so that Parrikar’s legacy continues is perhaps a story for a new contemporary epic. (IANS)