When the execution of the multiple ‘smart city’ projects in the capital city were being planned back in November-December last year, Revenue Minister Atanasio (Babush) Monserrate, was at centre stage. He was co-ordinating meetings of the officials of the multiple departments which were involved -- including the PWD, WRD, GSUDA, GSIDC. etc.
Through the first two-three months, ‘Babush’ put up a brave front in the face of rising voices of dissent in Panaji due to the inconvinience caused to them.
As prominent citizens began voicing their disgust at the lack of planning in executing the works and the city in a complete mess, Babush insisted that citizens will have to bear some inconvinience and have patience to reap the benefits of a ‘smart city’ once the work is complete.
Strangely however as the month of April ended, the Panaji-Taleigao strongman began developing cold feet. Perhaps unsure of the work getting completed as per schedule and before the monsoon can hit, Babush has now begun raising objections himself and publicly voicing protests over the works.
Strange? Not exactly. Blowing hot and cold on the ‘Smart City’ endeavour has been his trait ever since the project was first launched back in 2016, when former chief minister the late Manohar Parrikar was at the helm. Even the minor pavement and street furniture works taken up under the Smart City Mission in those days and years had ‘Babush’ raging with anger.
There was one phase in those years when he even led a team of the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) including his friend-turned-foe and then mayor, Uday Madkaikar, across the city, physically confiscating equipment and material of the contractors engaged in smart city projects. The reason however was clear. The CCP which he (Babush) then controlled had zero say in the ‘Smart City Mission’, enough reason to blow hot.
He then began blowing cold on smart Panaji, only after Parrikar’s passing away and his own defection to the saffron camp in 2019, that the equations changed and he began blowing cold. Babush as Panaji MLA became one of the members of the Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Limited along with Madkaikar.
Later, post the 2021 CCP elections, he had the company of his son and mayor Rohit, on the BoD of the IPSCDL, giving him all the more reason to take centre-stage which he gladly did after his narrow win over junior Parrikar in the 2022 assembly polls.
But now that the monsoons are round the corner and a predictable disaster awaits his constituency, the streetsmart politician is seemingly distancing himself from the scene. Strangely, however, he and his son continue to sit pretty and are showing no signs of vacating their seats on the BoD of the Smart City special purpose vehicle.