In an all-out campaign against the Mopa airport, an ultimatum has been served to the central and state governments, MLAs against Mopa supporting the Goa government and Cortalim MLA and minister for environment and forests Alina Saldanha. A warning has also been issued that by May-end a mass agitation will be launched.
Addressing mediapersons on Wednesday, former minister Churchill Alemao, UGDP vice-president Radharao Gracias and Goa Su-Raj party general secretary Floriano Lobo attacked the BJP-led government for going ahead with the construction of the Mopa airport “against the wishes of Goans at large”.
Alemao claimed it was due to his opposition to the Mopa airport, when he was a minister in the erstwhile Congress government, that for five years the project was stalled. He was responding to queries on why he had not opposed the Mopa airport in public while with the Congress government.
He rejected the notion that he had used the Mopa airport issue as a tactic to win the elections when he was with the Save Goa Front (SGF) party.
He further claimed that the Navy, which currently runs the Dabolim airport and decides what slots can be used for civil operations, will stop allowing the airport to be used as a civil one once Mopa is built.
“Chief minister Manohar Parrikar says that once the Mopa airport is built, we can bring so many more new tourists. But we do not want this as the current airport is enough and if this airport closes down then all Goans who are dependant on the tourism industry, especially from South Goa, stand to lose their livelihoods. There will then be a similar situation as we now have due to the ban on mining,” said Alemao.
Gracias appealed to all those who are against Mopa and from all political spectrums to come together so that a single campaign can be launched if need be. He said they would wait till May-end by which time if the government did not cede to their demands an agitation would be launched.
Hitting out at both the national parties, Gracias, speaking on their plans regarding the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, said the Dabolim airport would be their issue, and that, at the right time, “people” would decide which candidate to field in both the districts.
He further alleged that the government had acquired land on the Bhutkhamb plateau in Ponda taluka to set up the ‘Nylon 66’ project which had been opposed in the past. And that the land could be used for the construction of an airport due to its central location.
In a veiled attack on the Cortalim, Gracias said that the late Matanhy Saldanha when with the UGDP was always anti Mopa. He said Alina had to answer if she and her late husband had subscribed to the BJP pro Mopa stance when they joined the BJP, or whether they were given an assurance on Mopa when they joined the BJP.
He appealed to the MLAs supporting the BJP government and opposing the Mopa airport to come clean on their stand and support the anti-Mopa cause publicly.
Gracias also said that he rejected the recent clarification by the Church that no meeting was held with the BJP. He said that the “people were not fools” and all could see how the church had supported the BJP in the run-up to the assembly election.