Over the last three weeks the tussle between Manohar (Babu) Azgaonkar and Pratima Coutinho has been making amusing reading. And strangely this entire episode has got nothing to do with Babu’s concern for the vendors, instead it has to do with the MMC vice-chairperson, Coutinho not clearing his file on some illegal structural changes that he wants done at his MMC allotted shop.
On that day when Coutinho and her team of inspectors were visiting the Gandhi market, she noticed some illegal encroachers and subsequently the inspectors decided to move them. And with Babu seeing an opportunity to hit back at her for refusing to clear his files a few hours earlier yet again after much persistence; decided to do what he does best – act in the manner not befitting a former Legislator of the state but a roadside goon, who revels in being the ‘Bob of the Mob’. So with over 50 men and women (mostly migrants), they charged at Coutinho and of course Babu started to issues threats. Coutinho known to be a fire-brand herself decided to take the fight to him. The fight still continues and threats still continue. In fact one of the agitators even had the audacity to tell Coutinho that they would strip her naked if she removed the illegal encroachments. Such is the mentality of the mob.
The Congress party leaders in Goa who are waiting for an opportunity to put Coutinho in her place, ever since she defied the Alemaos and many other leaders for the Youth President post, which saw Valanka Alemao sulking all the way to Delhi and in return the Congress high command gave her the Congress ticket and she repaid their confidence is handing over the seat to a virtual non-entity from the Mickky Pacheco-led Goa Vikas Party; now claim to have found an opportunity to subtly hit back at her and they have even sent a report to the high command to keep her in-check or replace her because they claim she is hob-knobing with the rival BJP party and would like the Congress high command to believe that.
Strange as it may seem, the Congress chooses not to see that as a vice-chairperson Coutinho is doing the legally correct thing by opposing and clearing illegal encroachments. And as a vice-chairperson she has to do it without any political party compulsions. Instead of correcting Babu and reiterating the fact to him that Congress party lost the election on account of corruption of their leaders including Babu; the Congress is looking to penalise Coutinho and support Babu; thereby further telling the people of Goa that we will support our party people even if they are corrupt and continue to do acts of corruption.
But while Coutinho will face the ire of her party; her stance on the issue will help her score brownie points with the people of Goa who have been following this Babu-Coutinho drama. This will happen for two reasons – one is that she is standing up against corruption (irrespective of whether the person concerned is from her party) and secondly she is a young woman battling her way in a land of old-dying political male-chauvinistic wolves, who do not know that people have sent them packing home and still believe they can hunt like a pack of wolves.
And if Congress chooses to go after Coutinho it would be a huge boost to her in local state politics and a further dent to the already depleted image of the Congress here in Goa.
To Mr Azgaonkar on the other hand, I would like a give a free advice. Your antics in assembly were a laugh riot. You displayed all the qualities of a elected member that people of this state and country should never elect. Your performance in the sports ministry was a disaster and your scams are being earthed by the new government (hopefully if this government finds the courage to do the right thing or if Lokayukta comes to force, you could be playing Sepak Tekraw in Sada Jail). Grow up and learn from your mistakes because the people of your constituency has rejected you and you lost by a wide-margin, showing that you and your ways are not accepted. By bringing few migrant workers and charging at a woman is unbecoming of man, let alone you being a former Legislator.
But the two persons I have found most amusing other than Babu-Coutinho have been the MMC Chairperson Arthur D’Silva who seems to caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. The devil being the Congress leaders whose support have helped him grow and Coutinho (who is growing in the sea of Goans supporting her). So desperate is his position that he even went to the extent of telling the media that ‘Babu-Coutinho’ have patched up. Only to be ridiculed by the media who printed Coutinho’s version that she never met Babu nor will settle on the issue of illegal encroachments. The second is Camillo Baretto – a former councillor who has decided to come against Coutinho taking the onus of the local Goans vendors who livelihood survives on sitting on passageways in the market. And his rants were even more moronic than D’Silva because he would like us to believe that in allowing illegal encroachments were helping the local vendors. If he had the right intention then he would have approached the MMC asking them to talk to the government to create more space for the local Goan vendors.
In all this Babu will continue to sink and take the Congress party with him, but Coutinho will grow and people will come out in support of her.