Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s presence at Margao was just the kind of kickstart that the BJP wanted ahead of their Lok Sabha campaign, and the charismatic leader, who chose to greet Goans in Konkani in his opening remarks, left no stone unturned in highlighting the initiatives of the ‘Double Engine’ government in an impressive outreach that sought to build bridges of new hope in South Goa.
Amid the backdrop of Hindutva which has become synonymous with the BJP, and the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ chants at the programme, Modi struck an instant chord and made a conscious attempt to woo minorities. The very fact that he highlighted the Exposition next year, and said that Francis Xavier is revered as Goencho Saib and considered a symbol of peace, along with the several references to communal harmony between Catholics and other communities goes on to suggest that the PM tried to smoothen sentiments. PM’s reference to Goencho Saib will come as a slap on the face of those fringe elements trying to drive a wedge between communities and seek political relevance.
What was disappointing, however, was the fact that the PM skirted issues crucial to the people and which are a priority right now. For example, the burning issue of European citizenship and the circular on the revocation of Indian citizenship, the vexed issue of Mhadei water diversion where Goa is fighting a court battle against Karnataka, besides contesting the DPR approval by the Centre. Also ignored was political reservation for Scheduled Tribes, an issue that took centre stage once again on the eve of the PM’s visit. Neither did the topic of Dabolim airport survival come up — an issue which South Goa has been fighting for ever since Manohar airport took off.
While it was obvious that the PM did not want to wade into contentious subjects, the focus of the rally was completely diverted towards the achievements of the government, milestones, welfare schemes, development, projects, etc. Ironically, Modi made a stunning statement that Goa has reached a saturation point on government schemes with maximum coverage achieved. The question then is, why is there a constant drift and animosity towards the government? A saturation point of schemes by itself should reflect people’s outlook and a saturation point should be considered a milestone that reflects the overall well-being and contentment of the populace. In that measure, Goans should have been a consistent high on the happiness index. The mis-match is showing.
Modi, nonetheless, has made a beginning that couldn't have been better for the State BJP. Holding the attention of the massive crowd on a warm 'susegad' afternoon for nearly an hour is impressive by any yardstick. It remains to be seen whether the Modi factor will make a difference on the ground when poll winds pick up velocity because the Salcete voter is known not to be swayed by celebrities and national leaders and their showmanship.
All said and done, the prime minister has given a shot of 'feel-good’ to Goans and infused some sense of belonging to minorities who were feeling isolated and targeted in the scheme of things. The question is whether the minorities will play along at the hustings.