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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.

elections
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.

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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)

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Goa CM to Appoint Scientific Agency to Study Phenomenon of Beach Erosion

awant said that efforts by governments in the past, including building of concrete walls to prevent erosion

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Goa, CM, Beach Erosion
The agency once recruited, Sawant said, would advice the state government on remedial measures to be undertaken in order to arrest beach erosion. Pixabay

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Monday said that a scientific agency would be soon appointed to study the phenomenon of beach erosion which washes away beach stretches across Goa’s coastline every monsoon.

“I cannot assure you that it will be done within the next six months. It may take some time, but the government will get down to taking the agency on board as soon as possible,” Sawant told the Goa Assembly during Question Hour, as MLAs across party complained of sand erosion on Goa’s beaches every year.

The agency once recruited, Sawant said, would advice the state government on remedial measures to be undertaken in order to arrest beach erosion.

Goa, CM, Beach Erosion
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Monday said that a scientific agency would be soon appointed to study the phenomenon of beach erosion which washes away beach stretches across Goa’s coastline. Pixabay

Sawant said that efforts by governments in the past, including building of concrete walls to prevent erosion, were not proving to be effective.

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“The ‘rubble walls’ are proving to be more effective. We should not simply go in for concrete retaining walls. There are other options too,” Sawant said. (IANS)