Thursday 28 Sep 2023

Power bunch-cabling discussion brings 'Milind Naik' back in focus


Remember the former, three-term MLA of Mormugao and twice minister Milind Naik? 

Well, he may not be in the thick of action in the current political scenario per se, but his name is very much figuring in the ongoing proceedings of the Goa legislative assembly's monsoon session, albeit without being expressly mentioned.

Naik first became minister in 2012 in the cabinet of the late Manohar Parrikar who had allotted him the prestigious power portfolio then. It was in this tenure first under Parrikar and later under Laxmikant Parsekar, that his department took up an ambitious project of aerial bunch-cabling the 11Kv transmission lines, particularly across rural Goa. 

It was this project still in the implementation stage, that generated not electricity but high-decibel discussion hinting at it being a 'failure' or a 'scam' and brought the almost forgotten Milind Naik back into focus.

Strangely, no one from the treasury benches responded to the allegations of the Opposition legislators pertaining to the bunch-cabling project, although the project was implemented for a whole five-year term (2017-22) under a different power minister.

The discussion on the bunch-cabling project of the power department, meanwhile, yielded no definitive result despite the Opposition clamouring for a CBI enquiry. Dhavalikar may have termed the project a 'failure' but he simply ignored taking a decision on the Opposition's demand.

The current Mormugao MLA Sankalp Amonkar, couldn't let go off this opportunity and spring to his feet to get Dhavalikar to name 'who was the minister' responsible. But beyond a smile Dhavalikar yielded nothing more than quoting the rules of the assembly which do not permit him to do so.

The bitter BJP vs Congress tussle in Mormugao had been spearheaded by Naik and Amonkar respectively since 2012, until the latter after his maiden win in 2022 switched to the same saffron boat as Naik, within months. 

Amonkar's switch may have erased the difference in their political labels but the animosity built over that acrimonious decade refuses to vanish, it seems and could be a source of many a sticky situation for the duo and their saffron, ruling dispensation

Nonetheless, this 'bunch-cabling' discussion brings to mind yet another long forgotten news story -- the unsavoury 'sex scandal' in which Naik was allegedly involved in -- and Amonkar even knocked the doors of the Bombay High Court to ensure a police investigation.

The last time we sought to bring this story back into public memory was about six months ago, when Amonkar, mindful of his new saffron political clothing following his last year's defection, approached the same High Court with a plea to withdraw his petition. He was understandably slammed by the Lordships.

The scandal had cost Naik his job as a minister in Chief Minister Pramod Sawant's previous cabinet and was the principal reason for his defeat at Amonkar's hands in the February 2022 assembly election.

But politics and the changed political circumstances do not matter for the long arm of the law and Monday's proceedings in the High Court, ironically in the petition filed by Amonkar himself, then seeking a FIR be registered against the minister, has now come to haunt the ruling dispensation with the two rival characters involved, sailing in its own boat.

The story first made headlines when sexually explicit videos, with Naik in a compromising position, went viral in early January last year. In it, he is seen and heard conversing with a woman who had approached him for assistance following the death of her husband in a mishap.

Naik eventually resigned from the cabinet after Amonkar and the Congress launched an attack in the media and before the court, but insisted he was innocent and will prove it in the courts. 

The matter, has come up before the Bombay High Court a few times in the last six months since it summarily rejected Amonkar's plea to withdraw his petition. And it is the discomfiture of the ruling dispensation to which, both he and Naik now belong to, that is seemingly forcing the Crime Branch to drag the case along.

Rapped on the knuckles by the Lordships at the High Court for its failure to register the FIR on Amonkar's complaint before it, the Crime Branch continues to keep buying time each time on some technical or other ground. Not for too long though. 

Neither the Crime Branch nor the media and sundry, will be at liberty to sweep this story under the carpet for much too longer as it comes up before the Bombay High Court again next month (September) when the Crime Branch will have to come up with a plausible explanation. 

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