A controversy in Goa

Published : Jul 30, 2004 00:00 IST

recently in Panaji

THE controversial dismissal of Goa Governor Kidar Nath Sahani has had unexpected political fallout in the tiny coastal State. Sahani, a long-time Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) activist, was not liked by Goa's Congress legislators, who claimed that during his 20-month tenure the Governor was indifferent to issues raised by them and did not allow them to submit memoranda on matters pertaining to the public interest. So when the Union government dismissed Sahani, some Congress leaders lost no time in trying to settle scores.

On July 3, during the swearing-in ceremony of Mohammed Fazal as the Governor of Goa (Fazal, who is currently the Governor of Maharashtra, was given additional charge of Goa), Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Congress leader Dayanand Narvekar told mediapersons that the State government should give Sahani a plot of land at Baina, an area that until recently was the recognised red light district of Goa. Apparently, Narvekar was referring to Sahani's statement following his dismissal that he had no place to go since he did not own a house.

Congress leaders' attempt to explain Narvekar's statement by saying that Baina was also home to several people not associated with the sex trade found no takers. The BJP, on the other hand, tried to extract political capital out of the incident. It demanded an apology from Narvekar and when none was forthcoming decided to disrupt the proceedings of the State Legislature.

Meanwhile, another Congress leader, Mathew Braganza, said that he would provide the former Governor a suite in his hotel at Mapusa, about 12 km from Panaji. On July 6, Braganza's hotel was ransacked by a mob, allegedly comprising BJP supporters and led by Law Minister Francisco D'Souza, Agriculture Minister Dayanand Mandrekar and Tivim legislator Sadanand Tananwde.

All three were arrested after they surrendered to the police, were charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, and are now on bail. Whether the two Ministers actually took part in the assault on the hotel is now under investigation by the police. But it is reported that both of them accompanied the mob that marched on the hotel.

Although Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar denied the Ministers' involvement in the violence, the image of the BJP and the Goa government has taken a beating in the wake of the incident. Parrikar said: "Video footage clearly shows that D'Souza was at least 70 m away when the violence broke out. And what is the Congress talking about? The government that leading at the Centre has a Minister who has been charge-sheeted in 17 cases."

However, Parrikar told Frontline that the BJP had to take moral responsibility for the violence. He said: "Although it was not done on purpose, we had led the morcha [protest march], so we should have controlled our people."

The Congress lost no time in making use of the Mapusa incident. Citing the incident, the Goa Pradesh Congress Committee faxed an eight-page letter to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam demanding the dismissal of the Parrikar government and the imposition of President's Rule in the State. The Congress has also decided to boycott the two Ministers in the Legislature. The eight-page letter in part accuses the BJP government of foisting false cases on its political opponents and misusing the State police "to achieve its own political agenda".

Political commentators are of the opinion that the recent incidents have only diverted public attention from the main issue: the terms of appointment and dismissal of Governors.

SAHANI'S tenure was not free from controversy, too. A New Delhi-based event manager, Pradeep Kumar Rai, alleged that he was being framed by Sahani over the "existence" of a video tape that never was. Rai lodged complaints with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), stating that he was the victim of a plot hatched allegedly at the behest of Sahani.

Speaking to Frontline, Sahani denied the allegations. He said: "On November 27 [2003] someone called up and said that he was the Chief Justice of India speaking [V.N. Khare was then the Chief Justice]. The person said that his son and a friend would be coming to Goa on November 29 and asked me, since his son knew nobody, whether it would be possible for me to take care of them.

"On November 29 there was another call by the same person and he said that his son would be coming by the Air Sahara flight. Later, on the same day, I realised that the person had not mentioned his son's name. So I asked my staff to call up the Chief Justice's office in Delhi and find out his son's name. We were told by the Chief Justice's office that his name was Manu Khare. I sent my ADC [aide-de-camp] to the airport to pick up the boy. But the ADC called me back saying that no one had come by that name. He also checked the flight list and there was no one by the name of Manu Khare who had come by the Air Sahara flight. So I again called up the Chief Justice and, when I personally spoke to him, I was told that his son Manu had gone to Mumbai to pick up a relative who had come from Los Angeles and then the two had gone to Shirdhi. But he said that his relative could have come to Goa. So I told my ADC to wait a little longer. Finally, at 7.25 p.m. two people landed at the Raj Bhavan. I was leaving for a function, so I asked my ADC and joint secretary to collect all the information they could from the two people. They kept changing their story. I returned at around 10.45 p.m. and was briefed by my staff. The next day I called the police and handed the two over to them.

"The case is being investigated by the Goa police. Rai has also claimed that he came to the Raj Bhavan in October 2003 and that my ADC asked for Rs.50 lakhs for the appointment of the Goa University Vice-Chancellor. All lies." Sahani said that he had never seen Rai before and that Rai did something similar in the Rajasthan Raj Bhavan.

Rai had another tale to tell. He claimed that he was asked by Sahani to make a `television profile' of himself and that he met him at Goa Sadan in New Delhi.

According to Goa's Director-General of Police (DGP) Amod Kanth, Rai was an impostor who managed to "subvert the system" and doctor records in the Goa Sadan and was now claiming that he met Sahani in New Delhi. Kanth said: "Rai is a very clever cheat and a conman who had managed to create evidence. On June 15, we filed a charge-sheet against him on the charges of trespass, impersonation and cheating."

Political observers feel that the controversies associated with Sahani's departure may pass without much political upheaval. Parrikar himself does not seem too perturbed by the Congress' demand for his ouster - the BJP has 19 members in the 40-member legislature and enjoys the support of four others.

But in the politically unstable situation in Goa, anything can happen. The Congress, which after the United Progressive Alliance came to power in May said that "the Parrikar government would fall in ten days", is also hoping for the same.

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