It is clear from the presence of heavyweights like Ambika Soni, Prithviraj Chavan and Ashok Chavan at the wedding of the son of Digamber Kamat that the Chief Minister has friends in high places and there is no threat to his kodel. But to pacify the minority Christian community, which is hostile to the CM, Luizinho Faleiro is likely to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha and may even be inducted into the cabinet. As part of the checks and balances, Churchill Alemao may be appointed GPCC chief, with the assurance that Valanka Alemao can contest as an independent with outside support from the Congress.
KHUDA JAANE (or should it be Abu jaane?). Going by the very very important people who flew down to Goa to attend the marriage of Chief Minister Digamber Kamat’s son Yogiraj to Neha, the Chief Minister has consolidated his position and made friends in high places to ensure that he will at least complete his full term undisturbed by the Congress High Command or for that matter even the NCP High Command. The reference to Abu is to Abu Jani, the high profile dress designer for the film industry who is reported to have costumed designed the sherwanis worn by the boy’s side during the marriage and reception at the Taleigao Community Centre. Resplendent in their designer sherwanis was Digamber Kamat with a safa, which is the name of the turban he sported, the groom himself, Yogiraj, the American returned son of the Chief Minister, and Govindraj Dempo, the son-in-law of the Chief Minister. And looking at the women in the family and the amount of gold they were wearing, the steep price hike of all commodities has not affected the Digamber Kamat family.
BUT it was not the gold that glittered at the wedding of Asha and Digamber Kamat’s son Yogiraj. It was the Chief Minister’s political connections that glittered more than the gold that Asha-tai and the bride, not to mention the very high profile guests were wearing. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi may not have graced the wedding or the aam admi reception hosted at the very spacious Blasco, open air wedding venue at Navelim, but two of her most trusted advisors and confidants made it a point to attend the wedding and bless not just the newly wedded couple but the Chief Minister also. Because in attendance at the royal wedding of the year were Ambika Soni, the minister for information and broadcasting, and Prithviraj Chavan, the former minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, who was asked to take charge of Maharashtra after Ashok Chavan was caught in the Adarsh Society scam.
A third senior minister reportedly very close to the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, the high profile Law Minister Veerappa Moily was present at the reception at Blasco at Navelim on Tuesday, May 10, 2011. The former chief minister of Maharahstra, Vilasrao Deshmukh, who is now the Governor of Punjab in place of General Sunit Rodrigues, was also at the wedding held on Sunday, May 8, 2011 at the Taleigao Community Centre built by Babush Monserrate opposite the Monserrate mansion in Taleigao. And considering that Praful Patel, the second most influential leader in the NCP was also present at the wedding on May 10, there is no threat to the Digamber Kamat government, despite the raving and ranting of both Jose Philip D’Souza and Mickky Pacheco. In any case, Digamber Kamat has both Jose Philip D’Souza and Mickky Pacheco on the defensive. It will be recalled that the Mormugao Municipal Council has threatened to file a complaint against Jose Philip D’Souza for encroaching on municipal land. Mickky has just been convicted for slapping an electricity department junior engineer.
Digamber Kamat has also secured total control over the Margao municipality by appointing a hand-picked chairperson and has now built a Panjim connection by getting his son married to a Panjim girl. Who knows, Yogiraj or Neha may just get the ticket to contest for the Panjim assembly constituency, in the tradition of dynastic politics which has become more the rule than the exception in amchem Goem. Indeed, among Generation Next which is gearing up to contest the forthcoming assembly elections is Pravin Zantye, nephew of Harish Zantye, the Congress party veteran who successfully contested the Mayem seat for many years and Ritesh Naik, who has apparently decided to contest the Pernem assembly seat.
DON’T go by the noises that Digamber Kamat has been making about hanging mining officials if they do not crack down on violations of the law. What Digamber Kamat is doing, in effect, is to crack down on the large scale illegal mining carried out by the likes of Joaquim Alemao, Jitendra Deshprabhu, Ritesh Naik (Ravi Naik’s son), and the Yuvraj, not to mention the son of Mummy dearest Victoria Fernandes, the former protector-in-chief, Rudolf Fernandes. This is what the organised and established sector of the mining industry, comprising of members of the Goa Ore Exporters Association wants Digu-bab to do. That Digu-bab’s relationship with the cash rich mining industry is still very strong if not stronger than ever was reinforced by the fact that Cidade de Goa hosted all the VVIPs who came for Yogiraj’s wedding, including J P Singh, the former chief secretary of the state. To the Chief Minister’s regret, Farukh Abudulla, who the Chief Minister has apparently managed to cultivate a relationship and was to spend four days in Goa to attend both the wedding and the reception, cancelled his trip at the last moment. But all the mining barons were there at the wedding, ranging from Shivanand and Ranjana Salgaocar to the managing director and chairman of Sesa Goa - or should we say Vedanta - Prasun Mukherjee.
But the good news that came out of the wedding is that the king maker in the next general elections in the state is not going to be the Goa Pradesh Congress Committee President Subhash Shirodkar and least of all Churchill Alemao, the so called strong man from Varca, who is demanding four tickets for various members of his family. Several high profile people from Delhi, very close to Sonia Gandhi, confirmed to Goan Observer that the new king maker in Goan politics is none other than the old war horse former chief minister Luizinho Faleiro, who is now a general secretary of Congress in charge of the North-Eastern states. Apparently, Sonia Gandhi is very pleased with Luizinho Faleiro’s performance in the North-East and has decided to reward him with a nomination for the only Rajya Sabha seat from Goa, which is coming up for elections following the completion of Shantaram Naik’s term.
SHANTARAM Naik is not going to get another term as member of the Rajya Sabha, though he has lobbied very hard both at the centre and the state level for re-nomination by the Congress High Command. Nor is it going to be Ramakant Angle, who was a member of the Lok Sabha representing the Bharatiya Janata Party when the saffron brigade was in power in the state and at the centre. Along with Digamber Kamat, Ramakant Angle had also rejoined the Congress party and is supposed to be Digamber Kamat’s candidate for the Congress ticket for the only Rajya Sabha seat from Goa. The former Rajya Sabha member from South Goa, Eduardo Faleiro, has no hopes of making a come back.
So it is Luizinho Faleiro, according to Goan Observer sources, who is very strongly rumoured to be the Congress candidate for the Rajya Sabha from Goa. Apparently, the NCP MLAs in Goa have also agreed to support the nomination of Luizinho Faleiro, making it certain that he will be the next Rajya Sabha member from Goa. It is also learnt that in the next cabinet reshuffle, Luizinho Faleiro will be inducted into the cabinet as the new minister for North Eastern Affairs, based on his impressive performance in dealing with the states of Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Sikkim. Assam if the congress performs well in the ongoing elections will also come under the control of Luizinho.
Luizinho Faleiro, while maintaining a very low profile except for some pot shots at his bitter enemy and rival for the leadership of South Goa, Churchill Alemao, has played his cards very well. In a master stroke, Luizinho Faleiro managed to persuade Sonia Gandhi to displace Hari Prasad, who was till recently the High Command observer in charge of Goa. Hari Prasad was very close to the Churchill Alemao group and has apparently been lobbying with the High Command, not only to let Churchill Alemao retain his Navelim assembly seat, but also persuade the Congress High Command to allot the Congress ticket for Benaulim to Churchill’s daughter, Valanka. Hari Prasad has been replaced by Jagmeet Singh Brar, who is reportedly part of the Luizinho Faleiro camp in the All India Congress Committee. We understand that as part of the reshuffling of the Congress office bearers in the state, Subhash Shirodkar is likely to be replaced by Churchill Alemao which will, in the opinion of the Congress High Command, boost the chances of the Congress in South Goa. With the decision to nominate Faleiro to the Rajya Sabha, there will be no possibility of a clash between Alemao and Faleiro for the Navelim assembly constituency ticket.
IN the run up to the assembly elections, it is believed that Digamber Kamat will further consolidate his position by persuading as many as five sitting MLAs representing the Bharatiya Janata Party in the current Legislative Assembly to switch sides. Despite the high decibel war of words between Vijay Sardessai, who is hell bent on getting the Congress ticket for the Fatorda seat, and Damu Naik, the BJP MLA who currently represents Fatorda, there are persistent rumours that on the eve of the assembly elections Damu Naik will quit the BJP and join the Congress and it is not Vijay Sardessai or Shantaram Naik or Monica Dias or M K Shaikh or the former Youth Congress chief Girish Chodankar, but Damu Naik who will get the Congress ticket to contest the Fatorda seat in the next general elections. Digamber Kamat has managed to marginalise Manohar Parrikar in the Panjim assembly constituency, as dramatised by the defeat of the Leader of the Opposition’s mayoral candidate for the Corporation of the City of Panjim, Ashok Naik.
For some reason, whenever there is a citizens’ initiative or intervention in elections, whether it is at the panchayat level or the municipality level, the beneficiary seems to be Digamber Kamat. It may be recalled that consequent to the intervention of the Saturday club group in Margao, led by Shridhar Kamat (the vice chairman of Ravindra Bhavan), Digamber Kamat was able to make sure that his candidate would occupy the MMC chairperson’s chair in Margao, which is his assembly constituency. Similarly, the unintended beneficiary of the Panjimites Initiative for Change (PINC) in Panjim turned out to be Digamber Kamat, following the shock defeat of the BJP candidate for the mayor’s post, Ashok Naik, and the marginalisation of Babush Monserrate both in the Taleigao assembly segment of the CCP and the Panjim segment. This is particularly significant since Babush has time and again reiterated that he proposes to contest the next assembly elections from the Panjim assembly constituency and will leave Taleigao to be contested by his wife Jennifer Monserrate and St Cruz to be contested by "social worker" Rudolf Fernandes, the son of Mummy Dearest, who is the sitting MLA.
It is clear that Digamber Kamat has outwitted all his rivals within and outside the Congress and is assured of completing his full term without any threat from within the Congress or the coalition partners, the MGP and the NCP. It is also equally clear that the Congress will avoid a conflict between Luizinho Faleiro and Churchill Alemao in the Navelim constituency in particular and South Goa in general. But by nominating Luizinho Faleiro to the Rajya Sabha and possibly even inducting him into the cabinet, the chairperson of the UPA and president of the Congress, Sonia Gandhi, will send out a message to Churchill Alemao that she holds Luizinho Faleiro in very high regard and that former should behave himself. The elevation of Faleiro to the Rajya Sabha would also snip the wings of over ambitious members of the Legislative Assembly like Vishwajit Rane, who believes he should inherit the chief minister’s kodel, which his father occupied for the longest period of time since the liberation of Goa.
What of Churchill Alemao? Apparently, the Congress High Command is willing to give him the post of president of the Goa Pradesh Congress Committee in the place of Subhash Shirodkar, whose performance has not been very satisfactory. In any case, Subhash Shirodkar’s appointment as GPCC chief violated the principle that if the Chief Minster belongs to the majority community, the GPCC chief must belong to the minority community. Francisco Sardinha, the South Goa MP has of course been lobbying very hard for the job. In the ordinary course, there are no takers for the post of president of theGPCC, but in an election year the post becomes very important as the GPCC chief not only has a significant say in the selection of candidates, but also decides how the funds sent by the Congress High Command should be distributed among the candidates.
According to the current thinking, the Congress High Command is inclined to offer the presidency of the GPCC to Churchill Alemao, not only because he is the major South Goa leader, but also because of his nuisance value. If Churchill Alemao is not appeased, he may quit the party as he did the last time around and inflict major damage on the party. It will be recalled that on the eve of the last elections, Churchill Alemao formed the Save Goa Front, which managed to oust two Congress heavyweights — or A-listers as the party jargon goes — with Churchill Alemao inflicting a shock defeat on Luizinho Faleiro in the Navelim constituency and Reginald Lourenco defeating the King of Curtorim, Fransisco Sardinha. However, the offer of the leadership of the party will be contingent to Churchill Alemao behaving himself and not insisting on tickets for various members of his family or attempts to convert the Legislative Assembly into an extended version of the Churchill Brothers football team.
The High command might go to the extent of assuring Churchill Alemao that his daughter Valanka can contest as an independent, just as young Yuvraj contested as an independent from Valpoi in the last Assembly elections and then subsequently joined the Congress. If Churchill doesn’t play ball or becomes too much of a nuisance, the post of party president is likely to go to Aleixo Sequeira, the power minister, who will be taking on Mickky Pacheco in the newly created Nuvem/Nagoa constituency. If Churchill Alemao is appeased, the South Goa leadership will be in a better position to contain Mickky Pacheco, who is nibbling at various strongholds of existing Congress leaders, such as Aleixo Sequeira, the representative of Loutolim in the present Assembly and Mauvin Godinho, the deputy speaker and representative of Cortalim in the current Assembly. The Muslim minority community, whose representation in the election poll in South Goa is estimated at almost 16%, is likely to be the swing vote in the forthcoming


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