In kingmaker role

Print edition : April 14, 2017

VIJAI SARDESAI, Goa Forward legislator and newly appointed Minister for Town and Country Planning, played a critical role in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) coming to power in Goa. In an exclusive conversation with Frontline, he justified the alliance of his party, with three MLAs, with the BJP and added that he was excited about finally working for the State.

“My priority is to preserve the Goemkarponn [Goan] culture and natural history of Goa. This will be the 50th year of the referendum where Goans voted to remain a separate entity and not join any other State. I am determined that we must acknowledge and celebrate our statehood,” he said.

Speaking about joining the BJP, he said: “How can I trust the Congress after they back-stabbed me twice. In 2012, they said they would support us and at the last minute fielded candidates in the constituencies we were contesting. Again, in 2017, we were in informal talks, and they did the same thing on the nomination day. With this background, how can I be expected to go with them?”

He said the Congress chief in Goa, Luizinho Faleiro, appeared to have an axe to grind and was playing petty politics. “On March 9, just before the results, he had the bravado to announce that his party would form the government with us, the MGP and independents. When it came down to it, I could not trust them.”

Sardesai said it had been apparent for some time that the smaller regional parties would play a significant role in the election. He had proposed a grand coalition of parties, and initially it was received well by the Congress. Sardesai said that the Congress ditched the idea once the elections drew near.

On whether he let down his supporters by allying with a party that seemed to have been voted out, Sardesai said he had apologised to his constituents for this decision. But he thought it was the right move and promised them that he would prove his point. “Goa needs support from the Centre. Our condition for allying with the BJP was that Manohar Parrikar would be Chief Minister. Goa needs stability and development, and Parrikar is best suited for the job. Furthermore, he ran a coalition government before, and we trust him.”

Sardesai was reticent about the BJP’s right-wing ideology, but said that Parrikar was “secular” in his views and would respect the Goan culture of tolerance and secularism. “He was the third most powerful man in the country. For him to leave that and come to Goa means he has a deep interest in the State. We should leverage that,” Sardesai said.

He also felt that the Congress was too top-heavy as an organisation. “Everyone wants to be Chief Minister. There are too many former Congress Chief Ministers in the race. Factionalism and lack of organisation within the party are causing its downfall.”

Sardesai said his priority as a Minister would be environmental protection and development: “I reiterate, I want to preserve the State not destroy it or sell it to land sharks. We have to look at cohesive development. Additionally, Brand Goa is a big entity. We should use this and take the State forward in tourism and promote it as an investment destination and a culture hub. I would like to look at encouraging education institutions to start campuses rather than installing more polluting companies.”

Sardesai is a Goan politician to watch. Hopefully, his energy and enthusiasm will not be overshadowed by ambition and the murky world of politics.

Anupama Katakam