VIJAI SARDESAI and his newly formed Goa Forward party suffered a major setback on the last day for filing of nominations for Assembly elections. High drama was witnessed when the Congress, which had an informal understanding with Sardesai that it would not field a candidate in Fatorda constituency, decided an hour before nominations closed to put up its candidate, Joseph Silva.
Sardesai, who won from Fatorda in the 2012 election as an independent, is contesting from the constituency as the leader of Goa Forward. The party, which was launched in 2016, is contesting four key seats and is expected to win all the four. The party had aligned itself with the Congress just before the filing of nominations began.
When Frontline met Sardesai, he was fuming at the Congress’ last-minute change. Interestingly, the Congress had dumped him in the last elections as well on the grounds that he was issuing threats to it. Sardesai then fought and won the election as an independent. He has, in the past year, gained a huge following for his work in the constituency. Excerpts:
You have been let down by the Congress once again. What are your thoughts on this situation?
First, I should have learnt a lesson from the last election about the Congress’ temperamental nature and its poor leadership in Goa. If it can do this to me twice, how can the average man place his trust in that party?
Our aim is to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP], which is selling Goa lock, stock and barrel. Nobody wants the BJP in power. Its allies have broken away. I believe in a mahagatbandhan [grand alliance] to defeat the BJP in this election. It is the need of the hour. The Goan electorate wants a secular, liberal and progressive government. The Congress hopefully will realise this and respect this.
Goa Forward has made quite an impression in Goa politics. What what does it promise for the State?
Goa Forward is more than a political party. It is a movement that gives proud Goamkars a voice. We want to restore the identity of the people of this State. We are building on the sentiment that Goa is for Goans and that has to be a priority in any policymaking. For instance, if you want to start a business in the State, taking a local person as a partner should be mandatory.
You have been speaking at length about the concept of Goamkars or Goenkarpon (Goan identity) during your campaign.
I believe in the concept of regionalism. We need to work at the State level and not be a colony of Delhi. Goamkar is anything that is Goan in nature. We are proponents of protecting our culture. We have to think Goa first.
The BJP attempted to declassify the coconut tree. This would have enabled large-scale felling and clearing of land that can be grabbed by people with vested interests. There are no laws to protect the State, and we are promoting the son of the soil movement. The Indo-Portuguese culture is unique. It should be preserved.