- Cong has given 11 tickets to the families of Churchill Alemao, Joachim Alemao, Pratapsingh Rane, Ravi Naik, the Monserrates, the Madkaikars
- Congress is in poll alliance with NCP, which has got seven seats. So one-third of the Congress’s 33 tickets have gone to families of three former chief ministers and two ministers.
The people of Goa, which goes to the hustings on March 3, seem trapped between some bad political options and the deep sea: the choice is between the clan-ridden Congress and the BJP, with which the sizable Christian population is uncomfortable. The Congress, in the public mind, is associated with six powerful clans. Now, people even have an acronym for it—the MMAARR alliance, after the Monserrate, Madkaikar, (Churchill) Alemao, (Joachim) Alemao, Rane and Ravi Naik families—coined, not surprisingly, by Manohar Parrikar, a former CM, and the face of the BJP campaign in the state.
Members of the six families have cornered tickets to more than one-fourth of the assembly seats—11 out of 40. And since the party is in alliance with the NCP, which got seven tickets, the MMAARR families have actually kept one-third of the Congress tickets to themselves. People think it’s an extraordinary display of nepotism even by Congress standards, and bitter complaints have been heard during the campaign. “It will be a miracle for the Congress to return to power,” says the owner of a restaurant in Salcette taluka, a traditional Congress stronghold. Over the last 32 years, Goa has had Congress governments (in one form or the other), except for a BJP stint in 2000-05. But this time, the bets are on a BJP victory.
But this does not move the recipients of Congress benevolence, who insist they are “winnable candidates”. Says Churchill Alemao, former CM and head of one of Goa’s most powerful political families, “When I’ve helped so many people win elections, what’s wrong with helping my daughter win?” And his daughter Valanka says, “I’m proud to be my father’s daughter, but that isn’t why I got the ticket: people forget I’m a professional (an advocate) and have worked hard in Benaulim to merit a ticket. People forget I inherit my father’s enemies too.” She had sought a ticket for the South Goa parliamentary seat in 2009, but was turned down. Joachim Alemao, Churchill’s uncle, on his part, has got himself a Congress ticket and an NCP ticket for his son Yuri.
The other families haven’t fared badly either. Atanasio ‘Babush’ Monserrate and his wife Jennifer have both got tickets; so have Pandurang Madkaikar and his brother Dhaku, Pratapsingh Rane and his son Vishwajit, and Ravi Naik and his son Rithesh. Churchill, Pratapsingh and Ravi Naik are former CMs; the others are current or ex-ministers. No wonder the BJP is hitting out at this. One of its posters says: “Goa doesn’t belong to these families. Don’t let them gobble up people’s money.”
The unlikely outsider in all this is chief minister Digambar Kamat. Sidelined, he couldn’t swing tickets for two of his choices, and is expected to face a tough time keeping his Margao seat. He has also faced flak for turning a blind eye to the illegal mining that is destroying Goa. A Parrikar-headed pac concluded that illegal mining had cost Goa some Rs 4,000 crore. Parrikar says, if elected, the BJP would instal a Lokayukta to probe the mining cases. He also wants to reinvest mining royalties in eight constituencies violated by mining.
But will he be back in the chair? The BJP is contesting 28 seats and has tied up with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), which is fighting in eight seats and supporting four independents. Parrikar’s disadvantage is that he is seen as autocratic. Besides, Catholics are uneasy with the BJP. There are also fears the party may impose Konkani at the cost of English, and Parrikar’s attempt to cancel the Good Friday holiday (which he blames on miscommunication) had angered Christians. So the game will be decided by the extent of perceived negativities, against the Congress clans and the BJP-MGP combine.