Goa Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) President, John Fernandes in the GoaChronicle.com Hot Seat.
From reasons behind the internal war amongst senior leaders, to his plan to revive the party in the state, a free-wheeling interaction that would upset many, inspire a few and also keep some on pins….
GC: Some senior Congress leaders have been lobbying for your replacement as GPCC President with Congress high command. Your comments?
JF: I have been appointed by the Congress President to perform a duty as a President of State-level party. As Congress members we are governed by the Constitution of the All India Congress Committee (AICC), so much more, as Presidents we have to adhere to the tenets of the Constitution. I have done the duty that the high command appointed me to do – uphold the Constitution and revive the Congress party in Goa. So those who have issues with my appointment or way of functioning, are free to take it up with the Congress high command. So far the Congress President and Vice-President have been made aware of the local situation and have respected my position, actions and intent.
GC: Political analysts opine that by attacking and targeting senior Congress leaders, you are thereby dividing Congress further as some senior Congress leaders claim to have vote-banks?
JF: We took a stand to not give a sitting Member of Parliament (MP) Francisco Sardinha a ticket. Churchill Alemao and Sardinha’s son decided to contest the Lok Sabha election as a retaliation, the results are for all to see. Churchill claims to be a tall leader with a large vote-bank, so where did all the votes go at the Assembly Election and Lok Sabha election? Dayanand Narvekar another self-claimed tall leader, also lost both the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. So tall leaders became tall under the wings of the Congress, and they should remember that. Sadly, most of these so-called big leaders of Congress in Goa were mercenaries and some still exists as MLAs. Their intent were never about the welfare of the people of Goa nor of the party. Their sole intent was to use their position to fill their pockets with their corrupt practices. So they blatantly robbed Goa.
GC: You are saying your own Congress leaders robbed the state? Have I heard you right?
JF: Yes, some mercenaries that claimed to be Congressmen robbed the state through their rampant corruption. They were able to go ahead unchecked because the former President did not have the spine to put a stop to the loot or stay true to the precepts of the Congress party. If Congress needs to revive, then either these mercenaries reform or leave the Congress. People of Goa always had an affinity for Congress, it is these corrupt politicians in Congress that have disillusioned the people of the state about Congress. Now with a new, young, non-corrupt and determined team we will show the people of Goa what the real Congress is all about.
GC: Opposition to the current ruling BJP-alliance government appears to be coming from the GPCC office bearers but the Legislative wing is quiet? Don’t you find that odd?
JF: Some of the Congress MLAs are working along with the Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to continue with rampant corruption and loot. GPCC office bearers have been working overtime to show the people that the Parrikar-led government is more corrupt than the previous government – for example the Miramar roadworks would cost only Rs 10 cr but it was tendered for Rs 74 cr. Parrikar spoke of various corruption of the former Congress politicians, yet even after two-years not a single Congress leader who was highlighted as corrupt and who might have been, has been put in jail or taken to task. I am certain Parrikar will never do it; he will keep all these issues as leverage either to bribe the MLAs or keep the MLAs under his thumb by threatening them about legal action.
GC: What if legal action is taken and Congress leaders are proven to guilty in corruption related matters, will Congress support these leaders?
JF: If Congress leaders are found to be guilty and it has been proved beyond reasonable doubt; then Congress will not support those Congress leaders, they will not be a part of the Congress. The party has not asked the leaders to be corrupt, they have looted to benefit themselves, so they need to face the consequences themselves.
GC: How would you rate Manohar Parrikar’s government over the last two years?
JF: Parrikar is a continuation of corruption. If you look at the Shah Commission report on Goa’s Illegal Mining Scam, you will find that Manohar Parrikar himself has been indicted in the report. And the then MInister for Mines Digambar Kamat worked under the instruction of the Chief Minister. When Kamat became the Chief Minister the illegality continued.
My personal opinion is that the illegal mining would be much than the estimated Rs 35,000 crore mentioned in the Shah Commission report. Shah Commission investigations laid emphasis on a Port of Export being Panjim, can you show what or where is the Panjim port and on what Maritime records does the Panjim port exists on. The export was done completely illegally. People are slowly becoming aware of the U-Turns of this government, the corrupt nature and also its communal leanings.
GC: So if an election is to be held next year are you saying Congress will win the elections?
JF: You never know. Parrikar might just end up having elections by April 2015. There is some talk in the BJP to pre-pone the state election on account of the Woman’s Reservation Bill. But having said the above, to answer your question, I am not saying Congress will win the election, but we will do better than we did in the previous assembly election with new and non-corrupt faces to represent the Congress.
GC: How can the Woman Reservation Bill be the reason to pre-pone an Assembly election?
JF: The Woman Reservation Bill will be passed in the Parliament during the Winter Session. If that happens, out of 40 constituency, 11 constituency will be directly be reserved for women. Also 4 seats will be reserved for Schedule Tribe. In that situation BJP will not have the required political leaders especially women to contest and win. More importantly, Parrikar himself might not be able to contest from Panjim, if it is reserved for a woman. Congress on the other hand are prepared for this eventuality because we have been working on creating good young women leaders.
GC: Will Congress go ahead with an alliance partner in the days ahead in Goa?
JF: I have made it clear to the high command, that we must maintain a common symbol of communication with the people of Goa, with an alliance there is every scope of confusing voters in Assembly which then also affects in Lok Sabha. We will not go into a election with any alliance partner. I also don’t see the BJP alliance with MGP going ahead and at some point this alliance will also fall flat, cracks have already started to appear. In the eventuality it does happen MGP will lose a lot of ground which BJP would have captured for itself.