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'I was shocked to hear communal things from the CM'

By PRASANNA D ZORE
January 20, 2022 08:01 IST
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'TMC was calling me, AAP was also calling me.'
'But my supporters helped me realise that the people of Goa are backing the Congress this time to defeat the BJP.'

IMAGE: Two-term Vasco MLA Carlos Almeida, centre, who quit the Bharatiya Janata Party and joined the Congress on December 22, with Congress Goa-in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao, former chief minister Digambar Kamat and Mormugao councillors. Photograph: Goa Pradesh Congress Committee chief Girish Chodankar/Twitter

"The BJP in Goa has changed significantly after Mr Parrikar's demise. They are going on a different track now. They don't believe in taking minorities along with them now," two-time Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Vasco, Carlos Almeida, tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com.

 

You were elected twice from Vasco as a BJP MLA. You could have won the seat the third time too, but you decided to resign from the BJP and join the Congress. Why?

There are a couple of reasons.

After Mr Parrikar (former Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar) expired (on March 17, 2019) no other BJP leader in Goa could compare to his stature. He used to take everybody along with him. He would even take minorities along with him.

The BJP in Goa has changed significantly after his demise. They are going on a different track now. They don't believe in taking minorities along with them now.

Are you saying that Chief Minister Pramod Sawant doesn't like to take minorities into confidence?

Yes. He is not interested in doing that.

Do you have any evidence to back your allegation against Sawant?

I was a clean and faithful two-term BJP MLA from Vasco. Pramod Sawant was the vice chairman of GSIDC when he gave the order to construct a bus depot in Vasco. But it is still incomplete and so there is anti-incumbency against me.

Lot of my friends and insiders in the BJP told me that they were not going to give me ticket this time.

They told me that since I am not physically fit I should vacate my seat for someone else. But if that was the only reason, then I am perfectly fit now.

The fact that I was not fit for some time after I suffered a paralytic stroke made these BJP leaders think I could be toyed around with. But I worked hard towards getting fit and have bounced back. From half the side of my body paralysed once, today I just have a limp in one of my legs.

I go to swim, I am a diver, I am a good rider; I go to play. I am a self-made man. I have earned my two terms as an MLA from Vasco on my own strength.

The BJP should have supported me after suffering from a stroke, but they decided to suppress me.

The main reason is the BJP is now showing its true colours; it is showing its anti-minority stance.

Is the BJP under Pramod Sawant in Goa anti-Christian in your view?

It is. Alina Saldanha (the two-time BJP MLA from Cortalim, its environment and forest minister, who was the first BJP MLA to resign and joined the Aam Aadmi Party) was the person who brought the BJP to power in Goa. And they sidelined her too in the state BJP.

They didn't support her pro-people stand of opposing the double tracking (of the South Central railway passing through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary) of the railway line and opposition to transportation of coal.

What changed in the BJP after Manohar Parrikar's demise in 2019?

It got filled with all pro-RSS people. The RSS controls the BJP in Goa today. While the RSS is good, they (the state BJP leaders) have become more communal-minded now.

Who in the state BJP has become communal-minded in your view?

Satish Dhond (RSS pracharak, former Goa BJP chief and a close aide of Parrikar), the organising general secretary of the BJP in Goa, is pulling all the strings now. Pramod Sawant is just a puppet.

Pramod Sawant, who levelled charges of corruption against Babush Monseratte (Atanasio 'Babush' Monseratte, the BJP's Panaji MLA) once, got him a place in the Goa cabinet. What made Sawant accommodate Babush? It happened at Dhond's behest.

Since you were asking me for evidence against the current BJP in Goa being communal, let me tell you what happened behind the scenes after the Mormugao Municipal Council election in April 2021.

There are 25 wards in the MMC out of which 12 wards come under Vasco and my people won nine seats. Urban Development Minister and Mormugao MLA Milind Naik's people won only seven wards (the BJP swept the polls with victory in 19 out of 25 wards).

If I won nine and Naik won 7, then whose supporter should become the chairperson of the MMC?

The BJP refused one of my supporters named Frederick; they said they wanted a Hindu to become the chairperson of the MMC.

There was a meeting at the CM's bungalow to decide upon the issue and the chief minister (Pramod Sawant) and (Satish) Dhond said (they want a Hindu to become MMC chairperson).

I was alone in the room with them. There was nobody else. I was absolutely stunned and shocked to hear such communal things from the CM and Dhond.

Also, even though I was suffering from a stroke at that time, I worked sincerely to enable the BJP's victory. At that time they did not feel I was not fit and my health was an issue. It is only now they think my health is an issue for my nomination from Vasco.

You asked me about it (the Goa BJP being communal-minded) so I am opening up to you. I usually don't open up to people.

Why did you switch over to the Congress? There was AAP and TMC too.

The Congress is not a communal party like the BJP in Goa today. They are more secular. The BJP too was secular when Mr Parrikar was there.

Secondly, I surveyed 1,004 people at random in Vasco seeking their vote on which party I should join. I also took a meeting of my supporters to find their feelings.

TMC was calling me, AAP was also calling me. But my supporters and the survey helped me realise that the people of Goa are backing the Congress this time to defeat the BJP. That made my decision simple.

Why did you decide against joining the TMC or AAP?

If I had done that, my vote count would start from zero considering these parties are new in Goa, whereas the Congress has a strong base in Goa.

Do you really believe the Congress is all set to form the next Goa government?

100 per cent sure.

Will you be contesting as a Congress candidate from Vasco?

They will be announcing the names in the next two days. I am sure I will get the Vasco seat.

You asked me why I resigned from the BJP. I would not have resigned if the Congress had not promised me the Vasco seat. Of course, it is a verbal promise and though there is no written assurance, I trust the Congress to fulfill its promise.

What if the Congress doesn't give you the Vasco seat?

I will still contest the election. I will again go back to my people and ask them what I should do next.

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com
 
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