From calling the current CM a treacherous and deceitful man to not denying that the some of the Congress tickets were distributed on money power’. GoaChronicle.com spoke with Curtorim MLA Alexio Reginald Lourenco on the current political situation in the state…
GC: Sources in All India Congress Committee (AICC) have told us that you are a strong contender for the Goa Pradesh Congress Committee. (GPCC) president post. If offered the responsibility would you accept it?
RL: Yes, if the high command gives me the responsibility of ushering a change in the Congress party at state-level, I would humbly accept it.
GC: What would you do differently from your predecessors at a time when people have lost faith in the Congress, as indicated by the Goa Assembly Elections 2012?
RL: People did not reject the Congress party, they rejected certain leaders of the Congress party. And our loss was an outcome of there disappointment in particular leaders and also a failure on part of our senior leaders at state and Centre to take corrective measures in time and appropriately. We now have to work towards regaining the faith of the people. You must understand that people did not vote for the BJP, they voted against certain leaders of the Congress.
For me the strategy would be to use the political experience of the senior politicians and the aggression of the younger leaders to bring about a change in the party functioning in the state.
GC: You say people rejected certain Congress leaders? Was not the high command aware of the ground-realities in the state before awarding the tickets?
RL: Anti-incumbency, anti-corruption wave against allegations of corruption on some Congress leaders and poor distribution of tickets were the main reasons for the poor performance at the recent elections. Though, there were representatives from AICC to Goa to assess the ground realities, their reports and research failed in painting the true picture to the high command and also senior local leaders too portrayed situations which were far from reality at ground-level; therefore the strategies that were formulated missed the mark, because the data and research was inaccurate in most cases.
GC: Is it not true that at the end of the day certain Congress high command representatives and even state-leaders preferred money over ground realities in distribution of tickets?
RL: Money power in selection and distribution of tickets in not new in politics and neither is it attributed only to the Congress party, it happens in most political parties. Having said that let me state categorically that senior-most leaders in AICC in particular the party president would not jeopardize an election by selecting a poor candidate because of money. But I will certainly not deny that some AICC representatives and even state-leaders did succumb to the ‘money-power’ and manipulated ground-realities to favor some candidates. Of course their gamble proved fatal for everyone in the Congress.
GC: You have been a lone voice of the Congress from Opposition? Where is BJP going wrong in the last seven months?
RL: It is more where Manohar Parrikar going wrong not so much BJP, because he and his selected few belonging to his caste decide the progress of the party and now unfortunately it is the fate of the state. Not all MLAs in the BJP are with Parrikar, in fact Parrikar himself does not consider them to be his colleagues. To him, they are a stop-gap arrangement to ensure that his ambitions are fulfilled, so he will manipulate all his fellow MLAs. Interestingly, they have started to notice it. Forget the MLAs, ask the Ministers why is it that they are not allowed to take independent decisions. BJP is going wrong because it is a one-man show driven on the lines of caste-preference and that will in the long-run be damaging to the party and the state.
GC: Are alleging that an IITian like Parrikar is playing caste-based politics in today’s day and age?
RL: It is not an allegation it is a fact. Let me explain it to you. Look at the fate of Shripad Naik – a senior and respected member of the BJP in the state, who belongs to the Bhandari Samaj; did not Parrikar cunningly keep him out of the state-politics picture even though he wanted to make a comeback in the state. And trust me when I say this, Shripad Naik would have had more supporters than Parrikar. The same is the case with the treatment to his Former MLA Damodar Naik, who was practically the second-most vocal voice in the Assembly, he has been relegated to a post with no Cabinet rank status. Take a look at all the senior government posting now, you will see that most happen to come from the caste that Parrikar belongs. And most importantly some of direct perpetrators of illegal mining in Goa whether mining companies or even government officials and politicians come from the caste-class of Parrikar, mark my words, he will not take any action against any of them. You might not believe what I am saying, you don’t need too, check for yourself. But it is a fact, which is evident, yet people talk about it in hush-tones.
GC: Do you see Parrikar acting on his threats to punish the corrupt Congress ministers?
RL: Remember one thing if someone wants to act against corruption and has the evidence, he will not talk, he will act. Parrikar has made a lot of allegations against different political leaders over the last seven years. Has he taken any of the allegations to a logical conclusion through law. He spoke about Illegal mining, Casinos, SEZs, today he is creating a situation for himself and his party to benefit from such lobbies, even though he spoke against them in Opposition. And if you investigate you certainly find benefits accrued because of change in his stance on those issues.
GC: What are your views on the shutdown of the mining operations in the state, the government stance and your own party stance both at state and Centre?
RL: Illegal mining was a menace. And it needed to have been curbed. Parrikar’s upmanship on the issue has led to the current situation. Congress stand is that legal mining should continue, but, in order to do that we need to ascertain and set right what is wrong and legal. Parrikar on the other hand saw an opportunity to gain benefits from the mining lobby, but unfortunately he has been check-mated by the Centre. I remember during his time in the Opposition, he roared about the Narayan Bandekar mines and demanded a closure. But then, I learnt that he went to Bandekar and demanded some benefits to ensure that the mining operations is not stopped. There are many cases in the mining sector of this nature. Shah Commission report has put the onus of following legal proceedings on state government; has Parrikar filed an FIR against any of the mining companies, and if not, you need to ask why not.
GC: At a GPCC meeting recently, you openly stated that if your fellow Congress colleague, South Goa MP Francisco Sardinha was made GPCC President, you would quit the Congress?
RL: My stand on the issue stems from my personal opinion on the ground realities and constructive feedback from many other Congress members. At this point of time for the revamp and growth of the party in Goa, my MP colleague is not the most suitable choice. My personal issues with him, cannot cloud the fact that a party is above an individual. And I want the party to grow.
GC: Do you really think that Congress in Goa can find its footing once again, they seem to turned a blind-eye on Goa?
RL: That my friend is your assessment that Congress is doing nothing. High command is working out a strategy on revamping the operations of Congress units across the country, Goa included. Rahul Gandhi is going to be in the fore-front. But such topics cannot be discussed with everyone. So I suggest you wait and see how Congress will re-shape itself in Goa.
GC: Rahul Gandhi has so far been a failure, even the Indian Youth Congress, at least where Goa is concerned failed to boost the voter-base during elections?
RL: The Goa Pradesh Youth Congress (GPYC) has been an absolute disaster in the state. But I would not like to say anything more on this issue.
GC: What do you have to say on the Cortalim election disaster and your fellow colleague Dabolim MLA Mauvin Godinho?
RL: There is really nothing to say about it. Mauvin Godinho knows what role he has played in it. And if you ask me whether he was responsible, I will not confirm it but I will not disagree either.
GC: A fellow GPCC member has made an allegation that in reality you are a Parrikar-man and have been visiting occasionally. Also that both you and Parrikar are alleged involved in Rs 2289 crore Mala Land Scam?
RL: I don’t think that such a question merit an answer. And if the GPCC member can prove any of these allegations, I will quit politics for good. But if he cannot prove any of it, then he should allow me the opportunity to slap him in public. Ask him if he is upto the challenge. I had the utmost respect for Parrikar, but, today I see the deceitfulness in him.
GC: But six Congress MLAs are known to be associating with Parrikar, even trying to get into his good books?
RL: Well, you shouldn’t be surprised by that kind of behavior. Everyone wants to be on the safe side. And they are not doing that for the love of Parrikar or BJP, they have their own vested interest. If Parrikar is intelligent he will know their intention, if not, then he needs to live by the choices he makes.
GC: There is also talks of BJP MLAs wanting to join Congress?
RL: Of course in the coming months besides the numbers talked about, I am sure more will be interested, because the first-timers and some old horses are finding it difficult to work under the dictatorial functioning of Parrikar.
GC: Do you see the Parrikar-led government toppling and is Congress working on it?
RL: Congress does not need to work towards toppling the Parrikar government. I won’t deny that some politicians wanted to work on these lines. But I think and we have all come to agree even at the Centre that the way Parrikar and his government is functioning over the last seven months, it appears that it will fall down on account of its own weight. And so far he doing a damn good job of destroying the hope people had in his ‘parivartan’ government. People have just started to get annoyed, they will reach an angry stage and then a fury stage; in the months ahead people will reject Parrikar for his deceit.